Reprieve and Pakistan’s Mirza Shahzad Akbar pursue international legal action against US and allies for drone attacks in Pakistan

April 19, 2011

Reprieve investigators are in Pakistan this week, where it has emerged that up to 2,283 people have been killed by US unmanned aircraft, or ‘drones’, since 2004 — with the numbers rapidly escalating in the past two years under President Obama. As many as 730 victims have been wholly innocent, according to one official source. 

Preliminary investigation by Reprieve suggests that the number of innocent victims may be far higher, and that (contrary to American claims) the likelihood of the US hitting its intended “high-value terrorist” is low. Without doubt, the victims include a significant number of women and children. On Monday, Reprieve co-sponsored a conference in Islamabad: Litigating the War of Terror in Pakistan. Mirza Shahzad Akbar, an Islamabad-based lawyer representing drone victim families, has been accumulating evidence on drone strikes and consulting with Reprieve on potential legal action. The evidence exposes an urgent need for a full and independent inquiry into the use of drones, as well as litigation in Pakistani and international courts. Mirza Shahzad Akbar, advocate in Pakistan’s High Court, said:

“What we are discovering in our drone investigations is pointing towards culpability of not just Americans but also of their allies in this War of terror, and by working with Reprieve we resolve to take these crimes to Courts in UK, USA and international forums seeking justice for the loss of life of innocent people in Waziristan.”

Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith said:

“Our mission to Pakistan leads us to believe that American drones, guided by highly questionable US intelligence, indiscriminately kill innocent people, including children. Far from eliminating terrorism, we believe that when Americans play videogames with Pakistani lives this causes radicalization, and increases the danger to all, whether Pakistani or American. We are accumulating evidence, and believe that war crimes may have been committed against civilians who played no part in any conflict. It is a vital component to the rule of law that any such offence be brought to the attention of the appropriate legal authorities.”

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674 or the Foundation for Fundamental Rights in Pakistan: info@rightsadvocacy.org 051-2293103.

ENDS

Notes for Editors: 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 27 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve has represented, and continues to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’