U.S. Drone Strikes Face Growing Criticism From Human Rights Groups

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch recently released reports on civilian deaths due to U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. The groups allege the drone strikes violate international law and could possibly be considered war crimes. They have demanded that the Obama administration and Congress investigate, and end, the policy of secrecy on the attacks.

Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter prohibits the threat or use of force by one state against another. However, two exceptions to Article 2(4) are relevant to the question of whether US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are lawful: (1) when the use of force is carried out with the consent of the host state; and (2) when the use of force is in self-defense in response to an armed attack or an imminent threat, and where the host state is unwilling or unable to take appropriate action. Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has publicly urged Obama to halt such attacks, however, secret CIA documents and diplomatic memos reveal that the Pakistani government has previously endorsed and consented to such strikes.

Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch are not the only institutions that are critical of Obama’s use of drones. On September 18, 2013, the United Nation’s issued a critical report that called for more transparency on America’s use of drones. The report notes: “[t]he single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively.” The report further suggests that the secrecy behind the strikes “creates an accountability vacuum” and makes it nearly impossible for victims to seek redress. The UN’s report mainly blames the CIA for this, stating, “[i]n the United States, the involvement of CIA in lethal counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan and Yemen has created an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency.”

Do you support America’s use of drones overseas? Do you think there should be more transparency regarding these military tactics? 

Photo Credit: The New Yorker


UN Report

BBC News



  1. The argument of whether one supports the use of drone strikes by the U.S or any country for that matter rests on whether one is ok with taking the lives of innocent civilians. There is no way to focus a drone strike on a narrow enough target so as to avoid any collateral damage and as a result these strikes do a lot more damage than they do good. “Pakistan officials confirmed that out of 2,200 deaths “at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of remotely piloted aircraft strikes and a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants” (http://rt.com/news/un-drones-report-afghanistan-us-366/). These numbers are alarming to say the least and are strong evidence of the effect drone strikes really have. This talk of transparency or lack thereof is unnecessary because it means we are saying it is justified, in certain circumstances that taking the lives of innocent people is ok. Are we ready to make such a bold statement? I hope it goes without saying that the lives of noncombatants outweighs any supposed “threat” in another country.

  2. Civilian deaths as a result of drone strikes have become a huge and embarrassing problem for the United States. Civilians should never be harmed, let alone killed, at the expense of killing an enemy. The U.S. drone program has sparked much debate as a result of these civilian causalities. It is inexcusable for civilians to be killed during these operations. Although some say that it is a small price to pay for taking down a target that could potentially kill others, civilians should not be killed at all regardless of the circumstance. No one should ever be justified in the killing of innocent civilians. The number of civilian deaths is alarming and needs to stop immediately. This issue must be solved as soon as possible to prevent more innocent civilians from being killed. Whether that is achieved by shutting down the drone program altogether, or some other method, only time will tell.

  3. Drone strikes are an efficient way of defeating enemy combatants without endangering American soldiers. America, effectively, can win a conflict without putting troops on the ground, or in the air, which means more soldiers come home alive. While this is a great outcome for the United States, it leaves the international community begging for more transparency, which I believe is a fair and reasonable response. The United States should have nothing to hide when it carries out operations and has attacked enemy combatants. As a global superpower, while the United States is not answerable to anyone, it should appease the world’s needs to garner trust and respect. By hiding information and not giving justifiable answers to their actions, the United States are breeding mistrust and hatred. Unless the information is of utmost importance and presents and imminent threat to American lives, then no information should be divulged. Otherwise, the United States should have nothing to fear with transparency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *