Amnesty International protests increasing US drone killings

2013-05-23T00:00:00Z Amnesty International protests increasing US drone killingsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

NEW YORK - A top human-rights organization on Wednesday criticized the Obama administration's increasing use of drone aircraft for the targeted killing of terrorism suspects overseas and questioned whether it is legal.

Amnesty International, in its global review of human-rights issues, said the U.S. drone policy is shrouded in secrecy but the killings appear to amount to extrajudicial executions that violate international-rights laws.

"Our view is that the legal basis is quite unclear," Salil Shetty, the London-based group's secretary-general, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"We have issues with how the United States defines the 'theater of war,' which is a very broad definition which allows them a free rein to use drones and other weapons under a very wide set of circumstances."

Shetty criticized the secrecy surrounding the drone strikes.

"Our researchers, when talking to people in Pakistan, find that the people are living in constant fear in very remote areas. You really cannot figure out, at the end of the day, who has been injured or killed in a drone attack," he said.

In its report, Amnesty said, "Available information, limited by secrecy, indicated that U.S. policy permitted extrajudicial executions in violation of international human-rights law under the USA's theory of a 'global war' against al-Qaida and associated groups."

Obama is expected to address his administration's reliance on drone strikes in a speech today at the National Defense University. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Amnesty International's report.

On the eve of Obama's speech, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged for the first time that four American citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009 in Pakistan and Yemen.

The U.S. government has targeted and killed one American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and is aware of the killing by U.S. drones of three others, Holder said in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Holder said the three other Americans killed by drones were not targeted. They were Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki; al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who also was killed in Yemen; and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.

Civil liberties groups and an unusual coalition of Democratic and Republican lawmakers have criticized the White House for keeping most details of the drone program secret. Particularly concerning for these critics has been the administration's rare use of drones to kill American citizens overseas.

"We have issues with how the United States defines the 'theater of war,' which is a very broad definition which allows them a free rein to use drones and other weapons under a very wide set of circumstances."

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International's secretary-general

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Video

Most Popular

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed: