Despite Barack Obama’s assertion that the US use of drones is “heavily constrained”, human rights groups regularly denounce them.
Despite Barack Obama’s assertion that the US use of drones is “heavily constrained”, human rights groups regularly denounce them. FRANCE 24 takes a closer look at drone strikes between early 2002 and August/September 2013 in Yemen and Pakistan.
Since the US launched its first lethal drone strike in Yemen in 2002 as a part of its counterterrorism policy, the programme has expanded and turned into one of the most opaque chapters of Obama’s foreign policy. Human rights groups have criticised the lack of transparency and basic standards of international law framing this secret war.
In May 2013, Obama maintained that Washington’s “use of drones is heavily constrained”. In a major counterterrorism speech, the US president noted that “America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute”.
‘A Time to Kill’
But according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Obama’s promise to increase transparency around drone strikes has yet to become a reality, and the USA still refuses to divulge even basic factual and legal information.
“Secrecy surrounding the drones program gives the US administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher.
In the absence of official transparency, human rights groups, think-tanks and research organisations have collated information on US drone attacks.
According to the Washington-based New America Foundation and the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US conducted 365 drone strikes in Pakistan and 92 in Yemen between 2002 and mid-2013. In Pakistan, drone attacks killed between 2,000 and 3,400 people, including 300 civilians. In Yemen, between 680 and 880 were killed, including 60 civilians.
While the number of drone attacks has decreased since 2010 in Pakistan and 2012 in Yemen, the largest number of strikes was carried out under Obama’s presidency.