Pakistan

DRONE WATCH: Investigate Drone Attacks

As international concern about U.S. targeted killings with drones rises, Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, said Sunday that every drone strike should be impartially investigated. According to Common Dreams,

"Emmerson is preparing a report for the next session of the Human Rights Council in March covering the use of drone attacks, which have spiked since Obama's presidency.

He questioned the legality of the drone strikes and noted the growing global outrage over their use. ‘We can't make a decision on whether it is lawful or unlawful if we do not have the data. The recommendation I have made is that users of targeted killing technology should be required to subject themselves, in the case of each and every death, to impartial investigation. If they do not establish a mechanism to do so, it will be my recommendation that the UN should put the mechanisms in place through the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Office of the High Commissioner.’”

This comes as a flurry of drone strikes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the last four days have killed at least 18 people.  Reuters reports that six people were killed in an attack on Saturday, five early on Sunday, and two more later on Sunday near the location of the previous strike. These attacks came as celebrations of the Eid al-Fitr festival, marking the end of Ramadan, were occurring. Tuesday, a further strike killed five, according to the Associated Press.

Mr. Emmerson’s call for investigations is an important step, one that will hopefully mark the beginning of the end for drones as killing machines.

Pakistan Probes Alleged Hindu Exodus to India

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has appointed a three-member Senate committee to look into reports that nearly 250 Hindus have fled to neighboring India to escape harassment and discrimination.

The panel is meant "to instill a sense of security" in the Muslim-majority country's Hindu minority, according to The Times of India. According to reports, Hindus from troubled Balochistan and Sindh provinces traveled to India on 30-day pilgrim visas granted by the Indian government.

Pakistani officials detained the Hindus at the border for hours on Aug. 10 and made them sign declarations that they would return to Pakistan.

DRONE WATCH: Victims of Drones

In the news today are two stories of drone victims seeking justice for relatives who have been killed or injured.

The Guardian reports on legal action being taken in the U.K. by an Afghan man who lost five relatives in a missile strike. A letter sent to the Ministry of Defense is demanding details of Britain's role in supplying information to the American military "kill list," including “the compilation, review and execution of the list and what form it takes." Habib Rahman, a bank worker in Kabul, lost two brothers, two uncles and his father-in-law in an alleged case of mistaken identity resulting in a U.S. missile attack on their cars on 2 September 2010.

And in Pakistan’s Dawn, Waris Husain, a Washington, D.C., based attorney and writer for the newspaper, examines the U.S.  failure to compensate Pakistanis who suffer property loss or physical injury due to drone missions. While some survivors of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan have received payments, none have gone to victims of drone attacks in Pakistan, and no U.S. court has accepted a claim by Pakistani civilians. Mr. Husain concludes: “While the US wishes to stabilise its relationship with Pakistan, the CIA shows no signs of minimising it use of drone strikes in Pakistan’s border region, which means a system of compensation for victims is absolutely necessary.”

DRONE WATCH: Mapping Drone Strikes.

Using data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Guardian has created an interactive map of drone strikes in Pakistan, showing the location of known strikes. Each is marked with a red dot, clicking on it shows the date and number of casualties. According to the data, there have been more than 330 strikes, with estimates of up to 3,247 casualties — including up to 852 civilians. The map is a useful and educational tool.

DRONE WATCH: Drone Attack Kills Seven.

A U.S. drone attack on Sunday killed at least seven suspected militants in Pakistan. The Pakistani newspaper DAWN reported that the seven were Uzbek nationals living in the compound that was hit by six missiles.

This latest attack comes just before Pakistan’s head of intelligence is to visit Washington.  CBS News reported drones will be a topic of the discussions:

“Pakistan will press the U.S. at a top-level intelligence summit this week to end unilateral drone strikes aimed at suspected militants along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Though the Thursday meeting in Washington between Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, head of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and CIA chief Gen. David Petraeus is meant to ease the tension between the two allies, Pakistani and Western officials warn the issue of drone strikes may yield little common ground.”

DRONE WATCH: This Week in Drones

In drone news this week:

The British Ministry of Defense acknowledged that Royal Air Force pilots flew U.S. Predator drones in Libya last year. According to The Guardian, “It is not known how many missions were flown by the British, or how many targets were destroyed by them.”

The Washington Post reported: “The skies over Somalia have become so congested with drones that the unmanned aircraft pose a danger to air traffic and potentially violate a long-standing arms embargo against the war-torn country, according to United Nations officials. In a recently completed report, U.N. officials describe several narrowly averted disasters in which drones crashed into a refu­gee camp, flew dangerously close to a fuel dump and almost collided with a large passenger plane over Mogadishu, the capital.”

Concern over the privacy implications of domestic drone use is growing, reports the Washington Times. From the report: “This week, Rep. Ted Poe, a Texas Republican and former judge, will introduce the Preserving American Privacy Act, which sets strict limits on when, and for what purpose, law enforcement agencies and other entities can use unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.”

As many as six missiles were fired from drones on a “militant hideout” in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing at least 12 “suspected militants.” Read stories in DAWN, CNN, Reuters, AFP.

DRONE WATCH: U.S. Pakistan Talk Drones

Talks between the U.S. and Pakistan on drone attacks will resume this month, including a visit by the head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency to Washington. The U.S. continues to see the strikes as essential to its counter-terrorism efforts, and Pakistan continues to see them as a violation of its sovereignty. Associated Press reports:

"They start at an impasse, with the U.S. already determined to reject Pakistan's demands to end CIA drone strikes. Pakistani officials will also be pushing a plan to replace the CIA drone campaign with Pakistani F-16 strikes, and eventually its own armed drone fleet — a proposal that U.S. officials say they have rejected many times before. The divergent views reflect the deterioration in U.S.-Pakistani ties over the last 18 months, and the hardening of positions on both sides."

The Pakistani newspaper DAWN adds this from a “senior Pakistani security official” via Agence France-Presse: “This visit comes against the backdrop of extensive consultations between civilian and military leadership and the general has been authorised to take a firm stand on drones issue during his talks,”

DRONE WATCH: Drone Attacks Not Okayed By Pakistan

The Pakistani newspaper DAWN reports that in an interview with CNN, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman said her government has not approved continuing drone strikes.

“There’s no question of it. We also consider it, the drone program, we consider it counterproductive to all our goals in the sense that it radicalizes for the, it radicalizes foot soldiers, tribes and entire villages in our region. And what we see, really, is that increasingly Pakistan is feared as a predatory footprint. The concerns over drones can’t just be brushed aside.”

She said that the government considered the strikes to be a violation of international law, and that the damage done by the strikes outweighed the claimed benefits.

“It is something that is not only radicalizing large swaths of the population and it is also seen as predatory. It’s seen as against the law. And it continues to challenge a relationship that can actually accomplish a lot more on the ground than we are doing today in eliminating terrorism.”

DRONE WATCH: Just the Facts, Ma’am.

The first news stories Friday afternoon (from AP and AFP) wrote of 4 suspected militants killed by two missiles fired from a drone in northwest Pakistan. It was soon updated to 9 dead, which is what we reported at the end of the day.

This morning, I checked my Reader and found 30-some new stories overnight (many just repeats of updated wire stories.) But the stories and death totals were all over the map. Some still echoed the earlier AP story; there were also reports of 12 deaths, or 15, or 21, and a few 24.  The most comprehensive stories told of three drones. According to the Pakistani newspaper The Nation:

"The initial strike on a house killed 13 militants, five more were killed in a second attack when they drove to the site to recover dead bodies, and a third drone killed six more five minutes later, a senior security official in Peshawar said."

Other stories also recounted the 3 drone strikes, but gave varying numbers of deaths in each of the three.

Here is a more detailed version from DAWN, another Pakistani newspaper, which tells of multiple drones and 20 deaths:

"According to sources, six missiles hit the fortress-like residence of tribesman Muhammad in Zoi Nari locality of tehsil Dattakhel at around 8:45pm.

Local people rushed to the site of the attack and started rescue work while drones continued to hover over the area. They retrieved 17 bodies and two injured persons from the rubble of the house.

At about 10:30pm, the drones fired another two missiles on the compound, some 35km from the agency’s headquarters of Miramshah, when tribesmen were still carrying out rescue work. Three people died and two others were injured in the attack.

Local tribesmen feared the number of the people killed or injured might go up because they had to stop work due to the hovering drones. They said most of the bodies retrieved were mutilated beyond recognition."

These details raise two questions:

First, will we ever know how many deaths there were on Friday? And if they were militants, civilians, or both?

Second, even if  one accepts the U.S. rationale for targeting militants (which I don’t), if it is true that after the initial strike, a second strike was launched some time later against rescue and recovery efforts, experts consider that a violation of international law – a war crime.

Perhaps in another day or so we will get the complete story, with timeline and casualty totals.  But what is already clear is that these attacks must stop.

 

DRONE WATCH: Drone Strike Kills 9 in Pakistan

The Associated Press and Agence France Press  (via The Nation in Lahore, Pakistan) are reporting this afternoon that a drone strike killed at least nine suspected militants in a small village near Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan tribal district. At least three others were injured.

AP reports “The militants were believed to be fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a militant commander whose forces frequently target U.S. and NATO forces in neighboring Afghanistan. A similar drone attack on Sunday killed eight of Bahadur's fighters.”

As always, the necessary disclaimer is that we may never know whether all or only some of these “suspected militants” were in fact militants. Remember that the U.S. definition is that anyone in a strike area is assumed a militant unless there is clear evidence after the fact. And after a direct hit from a Hellfire missile, there may not be any evidence left to examine. 

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