Top US law schools had blasted drone strikes before Amnesty news
23 October 2013

While it took years for Amnesty International to wake up and see the flouting of human rights in the US drone policy (See: US drone attacks tantamount to war crimes, says Amnesty), two leading US institutions, Stanford Law School and New York University School of Law, had rejected Washington's narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan in September 2012.

These two globally known institutions had concluded that the strikes were counterproductive and damaging, killing innocent civilians, constantly terrorising the people of tribal areas, depriving children of education and even targeting rescuers, Pakistan's News International reported today.

The report by the law schools, which was the result of nine months of research by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School (Stanford Clinic) and the Global Justice Clinic at New York University School of Law (NYU Clinic), sought a review of the drone policy.

Though ignored by Washington, it had said, ''The number of high-level militants killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low - estimated at just 2 per cent. Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks.''

The report had demanded that the US explain under what law it carries out drone attacks, and seeks an independent investigation into the drone killings, respect for human rights and international laws with respect to the use of force.

The report had also asked journalists and media outlets to cease the common practice of referring simply to militant deaths, without further explanation. However, the media continued publishing / broadcasting unverified official versions, it said.

''In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling targeted killings of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false,'' the report says.

The report had warned that the CIA's drone campaign ''terrorises men, women and children'' in North-West Pakistan ''twenty-four hours a day,'' adding that it is ''damaging and counterproductive,'' and neither the US policy-makers nor the American public can ''continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm'' it causes.

Through extensive interviews with the local population - including victims of strikes - humanitarian workers and medical professionals, the report had demonstrated for the first time the devastating impact drones have had on the society of Waziristan as a whole.

The research spanned nine months and included two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting.

Although the report did say that the US should protect itself from terrorist threats besides addressing the significant harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians, the US drone policy should be re-evaluated in the light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to the US interests.

The report had lamented, ''The civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government though there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.''

From June 2004 through mid-September 2012, the available data indicated that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of who 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children. These strikes injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. In just one case, a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders killed some 40 individuals.

In addition to causing deaths of innocents and civilians, the report said that US drone strikes also cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.

''Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorises men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.

''Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behaviour. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims,'' it said. (Also see: White House defends drone strikes after Amnesty attack )

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Top US law schools had blasted drone strikes before Amnesty