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Amnesty International: ‘Unlawful’ US Drone Strikes In Pakistan May Amount To War Crimes

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Federal officials are acknowledging widespread drone access to U.S. skies faces significant hurdles and will take longer than Congress expected. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Federal officials are acknowledging widespread drone access to U.S. skies faces significant hurdles and will take longer than Congress expected. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) – Amnesty International is calling on the U.S. to investigate reports of civilians killed and wounded by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and to provide victims with “full reparation.”

In a report released Tuesday, entitled “Will I be next?’ U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan,” the human rights group provides details about alleged victims of the attacks. Some of the killings may amount to be war crimes or extrajudicial executions, the group claims.

The reports include a 68-year-old grandmother hit while farming with her grandchildren and a group of laborers struck by missiles while gathered in a tent for a meal. Amnesty says the latter attack was followed by a second volley of missiles that hit rescuers.

“Instead of hiding the truth, the U.S. must take responsibility,” Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a press release. “It should be investigating unlawful killings, coming clean about who’s being killed, and holding those responsible to account.”

The rights group says such attacks may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes, despite U.S. insistence that the strikes are legal. It criticizes U.S. drone policy for setting a dangerous precedent “that other states may seek to exploit to avoid responsibility for their own unlawful killings.” It adds that Washington’s refusal to acknowledge the strikes, “coupled with Pakistan’s ambiguous attitude towards the drone program,” make it almost impossible for civilian victims to seek redress.

The U.S. has carried out nearly 350 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, mostly in North Waziristan, a tribal area near the Afghan border that serves as a major militant sanctuary, reports The Associated Press. In addition to the drone attacks from the U.S., groups with Al-Qaeda ties frequently target the local villagers as possible spies for pinpointing the US drone attacks.

“We cannot find any justification for these killings,” Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher, said in a press release. “There are genuine threats to the U.S. and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances. But it is hard to believe that a group of laborers, or a grandmother surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States.”

Amnesty International also found cases of “rescuer attacks,” where those who rushed to help victims of an initial drone strike were targeted in an ensuing attack.

President Barack Obama promised to increase transparency regarding the drone strikes, but the administration has not yet disclosed any new information about the “legal framework” for its drone policy.

The report states that, “Speeches by US officials suggest that the Administration believes that it can lawfully target people based merely on their membership in armed groups, rather than on the basis of their conduct or direct participation in hostilities.”

The Amnesty International report recommends that the U.S. government “end its practice of secrecy and disclose key factual and legal information about the drone program,” including the identity of people killed or injured by past strikes.

 (TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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