Family whose grandmother was killed in U.S. drone attack in front of children spearhead Amnesty International campaign to label such strikes war crimes
- Amnesty International report focuses on nine strikes in 2012 and 2013
- Group calls on US to comply with international law and investigate killings
- Report reveals grandmother, 68, killed while collecting vegetables in field
The killing of Pakistanis in US-led drone strikes are tantamount to war crimes, claim the family of a grandmother killed as she gathered vegetables for her family.
Mamana Bibi’s grandchildren watched as the 68-year-old was killed by missile fire in the North Waziristan tribal region, close to the Afghan border, last October.
Her family today backed a report compiled by Amnesty International, due to be published tomorrow, in which the London-based human rights group calls on the US to comply with international law and investigate the killings.
A report, compiled by Amnesty International, calls the killing of innocent civilians like Mamana Bibi, left, tantamount to war crimes. The 68-year-old was killed when a drone, right, hit her family’s field
Will I Be Next? US Drone Strikes In Pakistan examines nine strikes that were launched in 2012 and 2013, and the subsequent deaths.
It focuses on the killing of civilians – believed to number between 153 and 926, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism – including the death of Mamana Bibi and a 14-year-old boy in north western areas of Pakistan.
Mamana Bibi’s grandchildren recounted in painful detail the moment she was killed before their eyes on October 24 last year.
She was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village when the attack happened.
Her son Rafeequl Rehman said: ‘We are ordinary people working in the education field.
‘All of my brothers work in the schools; four as teachers, the fifth as a school assistant. My father is a renowned principal. They even named a school after him.
‘After finishing my evening prayers in Miran Shah, I returned to my village and on the way I saw that villagers had gathered near our home.’
Desperate to discover what had happened, some local children told him his house had been hit by a drone attack.
‘I was shocked and rushed to my home and saw a big gathering of people,’ he added. ‘I rushed passed them and saw my mother’s dead body wrapped in a cloth – her body was in pieces.’
Fearing his family had been wiped out in the attack, Mr Rehman was relieved to find all of his children had survived.
Nearly a year later, Mamana Bibi’s family has yet to receive any acknowledgment that it was the US that killed her, let alone justice or compensation for her death.
Amnesty says the US has ‘failed to commit to conduct investigations’ into alleged deaths that have already occurred.
America views its drone programme as a key weapon in the fight against insurgent groups that it says stages cross-border trips into neighbouring Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama said in May that no drone strikes are conducted unless there is ‘near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured’.
But Amnesty said the US is secretive about the programme, calling on the government to ‘come clean’ and hold those responsible to account.
President Obama said in May that no drone strikes are conducted unless there is ‘near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured’. Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif is set to raise the issue with Obama this week
The group claims the clandestine nature of the scheme means there is no way to tell what steps are taken to prevent civilian casualties.
The report also throws the spotlight on an even deadlier incident, which happened in North Waziristan on July 6, last year, reports dawn.com.
Witnesses and relatives said a total of 18 male laborers were killed, none of whom had links to militant groups, they claim.
A volley of missiles fell on a tent where a group of men were having an evening meal, while a second strike hit those who came to the aid of the wounded – one of a number of attacks, which have hit rescuers, Amnesty International said.
The report, compiled by Amnesty International, examines nine strikes launched in 2012 and 2013. Two men, pictured, reveal their injuries in similar attacks in October last year
Pakistani intelligence officials at the time identified the dead as suspected militants. The US did not respond to dawn.com’s request for comment on the strike.
The report will be released jointly with another report on US drone strikes in Yemen.
Pakistan has repeatedly said that the airstrikes are a violation of its sovereignty, branding the attacks ‘counter-productive’ and a violation of international law.
Premier Nawaz Sharif, who is currently visiting the US, said prior to his arrival that he will take up the issue during his meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
He previously raised the subject at this year’s United National General Assembly session, and sought an end to the attacks.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, during his visit to Islamabad this year, also urged for the controversial strikes to be brought within the sphere of international law.
Moreover the Bureau of Investigative Journalism had launched a report aimed at keeping track of victims of drone attacks.
These groups indicated that the attacks have killed between 2,065 and 3,613 people, the report said. Between 153 and 926 were thought to be civilians.
Amnesty said it is concerned that the attacks outlined in the report and others may have resulted in unlawful killings that constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes, even though the US insists the strikes are legal.
‘We cannot find any justification for these killings. There are genuine threats to the USA and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances,’ said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher.
‘But it is hard to believe that a group of laborers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States.’
In 2004, the US carried out its first drone strike in Pakistan. Since then it is thought nearly 250 attacks have hit the country, the majority targeting North Waziristan.
President Barack Obama significantly ramped up attacks when he took office in 2009, and the number peaked the following year with over 100 strikes.
The frequency has steadily dropped since then, partly because of growing tension between Pakistan and the US. There have only been around two dozen strikes so far this year.
‘Amnesty International is also extremely concerned about the failure of the Pakistani authorities to protect and enforce the rights of victims of drone strikes,’ the report states.
‘Pakistan has a duty to independently and impartially investigate all drone strikes in the country and ensure access to justice and reparation for victims of violations.’
Amnesty said those victims they interviewed, who had no apparent connection to militant groups, have either received no compensation or inadequate assistance from the Pakistani government.
The top political official in North Waziristan gave Bibi’s family around $100 to cover medical expenses for the children injured in the strike, even though the total cost to the family, including loss of livestock and repairs to their home, was around $9,500, the rights group said.
None of the victims in the attack on the laborers received any compensation, the report added.