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The Obama administration may be guilty of war crimes
By Jeffrey Bachman
Amnesty International concluded that it is highly likely that drone strikes in Pakistan fail to "satisfy the law enforcement standards that govern intentional use of lethal force outside armed conflict", and therefore:
[T]heir deliberate killings by drones … very likely violate the prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute extrajudicial executions.
If we accept the argument made by the Obama administration and the Bush administration before it – that the United States is involved in an armed conflict with al-Qaida and associated forces wherever they are engaged – international humanitarian law is the lex specialis in Pakistan and Yemen. Yet, even with less rigorous limitations on the use of lethal force under international humanitarian law, there is mounting evidence that the Obama administration's use of drones constitute violations of international law in the form of war crimes.
Human Rights Watch examined six strikes in Yemen. According to its report:
Two of these attacks were in clear violation of international humanitarian law – the laws of war – because they struck only civilians or used indiscriminate weapons. The other four cases may have violated the laws of war because the individual attacked was not a lawful military target or the attack caused disproportionate civilian harm.
Going beyond the examination of individual strikes, President Obama has utilized tactics that inherently violate the laws of war. These include the use of so-called "signature strikes" and "double taps". According to Amnesty International:
Under international humanitarian law, US drone operators must at all times abide by the principle of distinction; namely distinguish between civilians and combatants … All feasible precautions must be taken in determining whether a person is a civilian … In case of doubt, the person must be presumed to be protected against direct attack.
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The last reported attack on rescuers in Pakistan was on July 12 2011. Their cessation coincided with the departure of CIA Director Leon Panetta.
The revival of the tactics – at a time of outspoken public attacks on the US drones campaign by the Pakistan government – appears to indicate a further deterioration of relations between the two countries.
The US had eased off on its drone strikes in Pakistan, as the two countries negotiated the possible resumption of NATO supply deliveries to Afghanistan via Pakistan territory.
However, the absence of a deal – and public US anger at a Pakistan court’s imprisonment of Shakil Afridi, a doctor who aided the CIA’s killing of Osama bin Laden – has seen a shift in strategy.
The US has since launched eight CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, which have killed at least 48 people. Civilians have been reported killed in a number of those strikes.
The last occasion on which US strikes were at such an intensity was in June 2011, shortly after the death of bin Laden. At that time the CIA strikes were still thought to be with the tacit approval of Islamabad.
The Islamabad-based think tank the Conflict Monitoring Center has accused the United States of ‘a bid to punish Pakistan for its conviction of Dr. Afridi as well as its reluctance to reopen NATO supply routes.’
After conviction of its informant the CIA has intensified drone attacks in Pakistan. According to monthly report of Islamabad based Conflict Monitoring Center which regularly monitors drone attacks and anti-state militancy in the region, American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has carried out six drone attacks during May 2012, five of them after conviction of its informant Dr. Shakeel Afridi who had helped in obtaining DNA samples of Osama Bin Laden’s family in a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad. Dr. Afridi is sentenced to 33 years imprisonment. The CIA operated drones killed 31 to 42 people in six strikes during May 2012 making it the deadliest month of the year with the highest number of drone attacks so far. CIA’s furious attitude is clear from the fact that it had carried out just one drone attack in the first 22 days of the month while it has now carried out 7 such attacks in 11 days (including attacks in first three days of June). The CIA also targeted a mosque during Fajar prayers and killed at least ten tribesmen. Half of the drone victims during May 2012 were confirmed civilians while the rests of them were ‘unknown’ suspected militants. It seems the CIA has started using drones indiscriminately as it targeted rescue workers as well as funeral prayers for the victims. It is worth mentioning that American drones had killed more than 40 tribesmen in Jirga to avenge the arrest of the CIA’s agent Raymond Davis who had murdered two Pakistanis in Lahore.
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Should We Trust Police Officers?
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CIA ‘revives attacks on rescuers’ in Pakistan
By Chris Woods
US drones attacked rescuers in Waziristan in western Pakistan minutes after an initial strike, killing 16 people in total according to the BBC. On May 28, drones were also reported to have returned to the attack in Khassokhel near Mir Ali.
Another CIA drone strike targeted people gathered for funeral prayers of militant victims killed in an earlier attack.
The tactics may not be confined to Pakistan. In the Yemeni city of Jaar on May 15, a possible return US drone strike killed between 8 and 26 civilians, according to a USA Today report.
The deliberate targeting of rescuers and mourners by CIA drones was first exposed by the Bureau in February 2012, in a major joint investigation with the Sunday Times. On more than a dozen occasions between 2009 and June 2011, the CIA attacked rescuers as they tried to retrieve the dead and injured. Although Taliban members were killed on almost every occasion, so too were civilians – many of whom the Bureau’s field investigators were able to name. The investigation also reported that on at least three occasions the CIA had struck funeral-goers.