UN report criticises US for hiding civilian drone deaths

October 18, 2013

A second report this week has been released by the UN heavily criticising the US’ covert drone programme for killing hundreds of civilians and refusing to reveal any information about their deaths. The report, by UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Ben Emmerson, says that “at least 400 civilians had been killed…and a further 200 individuals were regarded as probably non-combatants. Officials indicated that, owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures were likely to be an underestimate.” The US refuses to release any information about the CIA’s controversial drones programme. Emmerson writes in the report that he “does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data”. Criticising the covert nature of the drone programme, Emmerson writes that “the involvement of CIA in lethal counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan and Yemen has created an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency.” A separate UN report released earlier this week on the US’ drone programme by Special Rapporteur on ‘Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,’ Christof Heyns also heavily criticised the US’ drone programme in undeclared war zones, arguing that it “undermines the rule of law and may threaten international security”. On October 29th, two young Pakistani children who saw their grandmother killed in a US drone strike, will travel to the US along with their father to attend a briefing in Congress hosted by Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL). Their lawyer, Islamabad-based Reprieve fellow Shahzad Akbar, is currently being denied a visa by US authorities which would enable him to accompany them on their unprecedented trip. Both UN reports will be presented to the UN General Assembly on October 25th.   Kat Craig, Legal Director of the human rights charity Reprieve, which represents civilian victims of drone strikes, said: “This report highlights the US’ failure to reveal any information whatsoever about their shadowy, covert drone programme. Hiding the reality of civilian deaths is not only morally abhorrent but an affront to the sort of transparency that should be the hallmark of any democratic government. Some basic accountability is the very least people in Pakistan and Yemen should expect from the CIA as it rains down Hellfire missiles on their homes and villages.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161/66 / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk, donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk 2. The report can be viewed in full, here: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/UN_Drones_Report.pdf