| Pakistan Government releases inaccurate figures on drone victims!

Pakistan Government releases inaccurate figures on drone victims ~ Reprieve.

Figures released by the Government of Pakistan today regarding the number of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes are shown to be inaccurate by a report provided to the courts by Pakistan’s authorities earlier this year, it has emerged.

A report submitted to the Peshawar High Court in early 2013 by the Political Agents of North Waziristan – the central Government’s representative in the region – stated that 896 Pakistani civilians had been killed in drone strikes in the area in the last five years.  The court also found that a further 553 civilians were killed in South Waziristan over the same period.  However, according to the Associated Press, the Ministry of Defense today claimed that just 67 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008, and none at all in 2012 or 2013.

The claim of no civilian casualties at all in 2012 is especially problematic, as the relatives of a 67-year-old grandmother killed in an October 2012 drone strike yesterday testified before the US Congress.  Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher from North Waziristan, told members of Congress how his mother, Mammana Bibi, was killed in the strike, which also injured two of his children who testified with him at the briefing:  Zubair (13) and Nabila (9). There are several other strikes in 2012 which killed civilians and have been widely reported by independent sources: two such strikes were in July 2012, where rescue workers were targeted, killing more than 20 civilians.

These strikes were also profiled in a recent report by human rights organisation Amnesty International.

The claims of no civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes over the course of two years are also reminiscent of CIA Director (and then-counter-terrorism adviser) John Brennan’s 2011 claim that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” due to the drone programme – a claim which a USAF Colonel with drone expertise said “does not sound to me like reality,” and which President Obama was subsequently forced to abandon.

Today, members of Senate in Pakistan rejected the figures submitted by the government and asked the minister concerned to withdraw his answer in order to verify them; after which the Opposition walked out of the Senate in protest.

Commenting, Shahzad Akbar, Fellow of human rights charity Reprieve and a lawyer for civilian victims of drone strikes including the Rehman family, said: “The latest figures from the Pakistani Government are clearly wrong and the Federal Minister is lying to Parliament.  It is absurd to suggest there has not been a single civilian casualty for two years, especially when some of those victims just yesterday gave evidence to the US Congress. They are also undermined by the far higher figures the Government provided to the Peshawar High Court earlier this year.  The Government needs to correct its mistake, and apologise to my clients, the Rehman family, for the shameful way in which they have ignored their suffering.   It is also interesting to note that a Pakistani minister is giving such a statement after the Prime Minister’s recent visit to the US, where the United States released over $ 1 billion to Pakistan.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The Pakistani Government’s figures on drone strikes have been reported by the Associated Press:http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/pakistan-percent-drone-deaths-civilians-20725123

3. The 2013 Peshawar High Court judgement on drones can be found here – see p4 for numbers of civilian casualties:http://www.peshawarhighcourt.gov.pk/images/wp%201551-p%2020212.pdf

4. John Brennan’s comments on civilian casualties from drones can be found here:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/world/asia/12drones.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 

_________________________________________________________________________

DroneEerie1

STOP DRONE WARa

| US covert drone programme ‘violates children’s rights under International Law,’ says new report!

US covert drone programme ‘violates children’s rights under international law,’ says new report. ~ Katie TaylorReprieve.

A new report focusing on the impact on children of America’s covert drone programme finds that it violates a range of their rights as established under international law.

Documented instances of the killing of children, strikes on schools, and attacks on rescuers mean that the programme – which is intended to target ‘militants’ as part of the ‘War on Terror’ – violates three of the UN Security Council’s Six Grave Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict, the report finds.

The drone programme – which uses robotic aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles outside of declared warzones in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen – also “violates a range of rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” including the rights to life, health and education.

The report emphasises the wider impact on children’s health and educational opportunities when the missiles hit key infrastructure such as schools or hospitals, noting that “Beyond the direct injuring and maiming of children, arguably the most egregious violation of children’s right to health through the U.S.’ drone program is the targeting and striking of health facilities”.

It also stresses the risk of psychological damage, finding that “the constant, terrorizing presence of drones overhead traumatizes whole populations of children. Testimonies from community members as disparate as Pakistan and Yemen have led researchers to one conclusion: the U.S. drone program is having a profound and possibly irreversible
psychological effect on children.”

The three Grave Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict identified by the report – entitled ‘Drones: No Safe Place for Children,’ and produced by human rights charity Reprieve – are:

  • Killing and maiming of children
  • Attacks on schools
  • Denial of humanitarian access (through ‘double-tap’ strikes on rescuers)

The Rights of the Child violated by the programme include:

Commenting, the report’s author, Katie Taylor said: “Children make up nearly half of the population of the communities targeted by drones. These children did not choose to engage with the ‘war on terror’; rather, the US brought that war to them. This continues to have a profound effect on every aspect of children’s day-to-day lives. The US must fulfil its obligations under international law as it pertains to the protection of children and ensure that the impact on communities is not irreversible.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The report can be found on Reprieve’s website.

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

________________________________________________________________

DroneEerie1

STOP DRONE WARa

| ‘CIA drones in Pakistan illegal, says UN.’

‘CIA drones in Pakistan illegal, says UN.’Reprieve.

Ben Emmerson QC, the UN Special Rapporteur for Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, has returned from a three day trip to Pakistan. In a statement released today, Emmerson said that the Pakistani government had made it clear to him that they consider the CIA drone programme to be “counter-productive, contrary to international law, a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, [and that] they should cease immediately”.

While in Pakistan, Emmerson met with victims of drone strikes as well as government officials. In his statement today the Special Rapporteur emphasised the devastating effect of drones on the everyday life of entire communities in the North West of Pakistan, where the unmanned missiles constantly hover overhead. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism estimates that up to 3,577 people have been killed in drone strikes.

Commenting, Reprieve’s Legal Director Kat Craig said:  “The UN’s statement today is an unequivocal warning that the CIA drones programme is not only completely unwanted by the Pakistani government but is irrefutably illegal. More worryingly, it is shredding apart the fabric of life in Pakistan, terrorising entire communities. The Special Rapporteur’s job is to balance the need for counter-terrorism with the need to protect basic human rights – what he has revealed today is that this balance is far, far from being achieved. US drone strikes in Pakistan must stop and the international community must turn its attention to the plight of the most vulnerable people whose lives are being devastated by these killing machines.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For more information please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s Press Office, on: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / clemency [dot] wells [at] reprieve [dot] org [dot] uk

2. For further information about Reprieve’s work on drones, please see here.

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

______________________________________________________________

DroneEerie1

drone_ap_ftr

| “No reason exists” to justify “inherently unfair” UK Secret Courts, say expert lawyers!

“No reason exists” to justify “inherently unfair” Secret Courts, say expert lawyers ~ Reprieve.

The Special Advocates, a group of expert lawyers who work in cases involving national security, have attacked the Government’s plans for secret courts, describing them as “inherently unfair and contrary to the common law tradition.”

They have also criticised the lack of evidence produced by the Government in support of the plans to roll out secret courts – or ‘Closed Material Procedures’ (CMPs) – across the civil justice system, saying that “no…reasons have been advanced” to justify the move, and adding that “in our view, none exists.”

The new criticisms, contained in a note submitted to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights in February, come ahead of this week’s Commons debates on the plans, which are contained in the Justice and Security Bill.

The use of CMPs would mean that, in cases brought against the Government, ministers would be able to exclude the press, the public and even their opponents from the court room, and present a one-sided case to the judge.  They have been criticised as a significant departure from long-established principles of open and natural justice, including the right to hear and challenge the evidence used against you in court which is at the heart of Britain’s adversarial system.

The Special Advocates warn that, under CMPs, “it will be possible to have proceedings in which the court’s decision is based entirely on evidence about which one of the parties has been told nothing at all.”

Civil liberties groups, including Reprieve, have expressed concerns that it would be possible to use CMPs to cover up Government embarrassment or wrongdoing in cases involving abuses such as torture.

In their note, the Special Advocates say:

  • “[We] reaffirm our view that no compelling justification for the proposals in Part 2 of the Bill has been made out, notwithstanding the Government’s assertions to the contrary”
  • “We consider CMPs to be inherently unfair and contrary to the common law tradition, because they allow the court to makes its decision based on evidence which one party is unable to see or comment on or challenge.”
  • “There is to date no example of a case in which a fair trial has been shown to be impossible because of the application of existing rules to sensitive national security evidence.”
  • “It has not been shown in practice that the present system has led to any unfairness, as no case has been identified which could not be tried fairly under existing procedures”
  • “We therefore remain of the view we previously expressed: ‘that CMPs are inherently unfair and contrary to the common law tradition; that the Government would have to show the most compelling reasons to justify their introduction; that no such reasons have been advanced; and that, in our view, none exists.’”

Commenting, Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “The Special Advocates are the experts in this field, and it is shameful that the Government has not respected their views.  They are taking a principled stand against plans for secret courts which would undermine centuries-old British freedoms and put the Government above the law.  Even if ministers won’t listen to them, our MPs must, and vote against these plans in the Commons this week.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: 07791 755 415 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk
  2. The Special Advocates note can be viewed in full here.
  3. The Justice and Security Bill is expected to be debated at Report Stage in the House of Commons on Monday 4 and Thursday 7 March.  Further information on the Bill can be found here.

______________________________________________________________________

NO MORE LIESa

 

NO SECRET COURTS UK