Terrorism by Drone: How U.S. Bombing Makes Pakistani Civilians Endure a Living Hell
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A second anonymised man told researchers of an attack on the home of his in-laws: ‘Other people came to check what had happened, they were looking for the children in the beds and then a second drone strike hit those people.’
People now avoid assisting victims of drone strikes, researchers were told. One ‘leading humanitarian organization’ said that it insists on a six-hour mandatory delay before its workers are allowed to assist, meaning it is ‘only the locals, the poor, [who] will pick up the bodies of loved ones.’
When seven of Faheem Qureshi’s family and friends died in Obama’s first ever drone strike, he believes he only survived because he was able to walk out of the smoking rubble of the house unaided.
‘Usually, when a drone strikes and people die, nobody comes near the bodies for half an hour because they fear another missile will strike,’ Qureshi told researchers.
Funeral practices have also changed in the tribal areas because of fears of CIA attack, according to a number of witnesses. Firoz Ali Khan told researchers:
Not many people go to funerals because funerals have been struck by drones. Many people are scared. They don’t go to funerals because of their fear.’
The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Professor Christof Heyns, recently described the deliberate targeting of civilian rescuers as ‘a war crime.’
The joint report by two of the US’s biggest university law schools came after legal campaigning group Reprieve suggested a study into the impact of drones on civilians. It also assisted in putting researchers in touch with some of those affected in Pakistan – although Reprieve has had no editorial input, according to the report.
Professor Sarah Knuckey of NYU’s Global Justice Clinic co-authored the study with Professor James Cavallaro at Stanford. The pair visited Pakistan twice with a team of young lawyers, interviewing more than 130 people in connection with the CIA’s bombing programme.
Knuckey, who has previously investigated killings by the Taliban in Afghanistan, told the Bureau she had been surprised at the high levels of civilian trauma described by health professionals in the tribal areas. Incidence levels more closely resembled those found in higher intensity conflicts, she said.
Asked what she thought the study would achieve, Knuckey said that she hoped that those responsible in the US for covert drone strikes ‘look at this and say there are extremely well documented and serious concerns, both about the impact of our policies on Pakistani civilians, and also on the US’s own interests, and we need to consider this very seriously.’
The Obama administration has so far not engaged with the authors. A July 18 request for a meeting with the US National Security Council has yet to be answered.