This report is 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). Professor James Cavallaro and Clinical Lecturer Stephan Sonnenberg led the Stanford Clinic team; Professor Sarah Knuckey led the NYU Clinic team. Adelina Acuña, Mohammad M. Ali, Anjali Deshmukh, Jennifer Gibson, Jennifer Ingram, Dimitri Phillips, Wendy Salkin, and Omar Shakir were the student research team at Stanford; Christopher Holland was the student researcher from NYU. Supervisors Cavallaro, Sonnenberg, and Knuckey, as well as student researchers Acuña, Ali, Deshmukh, Gibson, Salkin, and Shakir participated in the fact-finding investigations to Pakistan.
EXTRACT (One Sentence from Each Summary Paragraph):
First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians
Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.
Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best.
Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents.
In light of these concerns, this report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits. A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.
This report also supports and reiterates the calls consistently made by rights groups and others for legality, accountability, and transparency in US drone strike policies:
The US should fulfill its international obligations with respect to accountability and transparency, and ensure proper democratic debate about key policies. The US should:
- Release the US Department of Justice memoranda outlining the legal basis for US targeted killing in Pakistan;
- Make public critical information concerning US drone strike policies, including as previously and repeatedly requested by various groups and officials: the targeting criteria for so-called “signature” strikes; the mechanisms in place to ensure that targeting complies with international law; which laws are being applied; the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury; and mechanisms in place to track, analyze and publicly recognize civilian casualties;
- Ensure independent investigations into drone strike deaths, consistent with the call made by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in August 2012;
- In conjunction with robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions, establishcompensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes in Pakistan.
- The US should fulfill its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups with whom the US is in an armed conflict, or otherwise against individuals not posing an imminent threat to life. This includes not double-striking targets as first responders arrive.
- Journalists and media outlets should cease the common practice of referring simply to “militant” deaths, without further explanation. All reporting of government accounts of “militant” deaths should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants,” absent exonerating evidence. Media accounts relying on anonymous government sources should also highlight the fact of their single-source information and of the past record of false government reports.