I was not scared of drones before, but now when they fly over I wonder, will I be next?
These words belong to an eight-year-old Nabeela whose grandmother was killed on October 2012 by a US drone strike in their family’s large, open field while doing daily chores. The US drone appeared to have been aimed directly at her. There was no evidence that she imposed a danger or let alone imminent threat to the US. A year has passed now, but the US government neither acknowledged Mamana Bibi’s death nor provided any justice or compensation for it.
“Will I be next?” is a new report published by Amnesty International on the use of drones by the US in Pakistan. The report claims the killing of Mamana Bibi and several others (so-called targeted killings by the US drone strikes) to be extrajudicial executions or war crimes. The report covers an extensive range of related topics in detail, such as the history of US drone operations in Pakistan, signatures strikes, rescuer attacks, civilians’ fear of drones, denial of justice, reparation for survivors, failure to conduct adequate investigation and prosecution by the US, the absence of effective remedies, and compensation for the victims. Further, the report provides a table of current estimates on the total number of US drone attacks and the numbers killed and injured even though it does not represent a compressive data or endorse the findings of others.
The 76-page Amnesty Report is based on interviews and eyewitnesses to these strikes. While the report documents potentially unlawful killings and abuses, it also makes recommendations to the US government for how to uphold the right to life and ensure accountability for any unlawful killings. It is devastating to hear what the interviewees had to say to Amnesty International about the use of drones. The followings are just two examples among many other interviews:
On July 2013, Rafeequl Rehman from Tappi Village said to Amnesty interviewer,
We are scared that any time there could be a blast from an armed group and then the Army will fire mortars without caring who they hit.
On another occasion, recalling the US drone strike of July 6, 2012, Ahsan resident of Zowi Sidgi said,
When we went to help people, we saw a very horrible scene. Body parts were scattered everywhere. I saw bodies without heads and bodies without hands or legs. Everyone in the hut was cut to pieces.
Finally, the report calls our attention to the fact that many of the people who interviewed with Amnesty did so at great risk of their lives because they were afraid of any possible reprisals from the US or Pakistani authorities or the Taliban or other groups. It states that these people finally decided to speak up despite the danger because the use of drones cost many lives of civilians, had a huge impact on their daily lives and their communities of living in a state of fear. They basically say, “Will I be next?”
There is no question that the use of drones might be necessary during war times, but how and when should they be used? What determines the proportionality of the use of drones? When civilians are killed, what do you think the appropriate and justifiable remedies and compensation should be? Do you think the US has been conducting adequate and satisfying investigation and prosecution after such attacks which result with the death of civilians? If so, how?