Drone death figures show the U.S. “simply doesn’t know who it has killed”

July 1, 2016

Graphic with children and drones

Responding to civilian casualty figures released by the White House today, international human rights organization Reprieve has expressed dismay at how little the Obama Administration appears to know about those it has killed in its covert use of lethal drones outside of war zones.

Jennifer Gibson, attorney at Reprieve, said:

“For three years now, President Obama has been promising to shed light on the CIA’s covert drone program. Today, he had a golden opportunity to do just that.  Instead, he chose to do the opposite. He published numbers that are hundreds lower than even the lowest estimates by independent organizations.

“The only thing those numbers tell us is that this Administration simply doesn’t know who it has killed. Back in 2011, it claimed to have killed “only 60” civilians. Does it really expect us to believe that it has killed only 4 more civilians since then, despite taking hundreds more strikes?

“The most glaring absence from this announcement are the names and faces of those civilians that have been killed. Today’s announcement tells us nothing about 14 year old Faheem Qureshi, who was severely injured in Obama’s first drone strike. Reports suggest Obama knew he had killed civilians that day. Is Faheem’s family in those numbers? They make no mention of  nine-year old Nabila Rehman. She travelled all the way to the US in 2013 to try to get answers about the strike that killed her grandmother, Mamana Bibi. Will she now get the same apology as an American and Italian hostage killed in another strike?

“We need real transparency and accountability, not more smoke and mirrors. It’s past time that there be an independent investigation into just who the US drone program has killed and what the rules and legal framework were for doing so. Only then can we begin to grapple with the effectiveness of this program and whether it really has made us any safer.”

Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an engineer from Yemen whose family members were mistakenly killed by a US drone strike in 2012, said:

“The Obama Administration is wrong to think that publishing statistics makes up for the pain his secret drone program has caused families like mine.

“It’s no surprise that the White House didn’t bother to consult the victims of drone strikes before publishing these figures – the US has never even acknowledged its role in the deaths of our loved ones. My brother-in-law was an Imam who was leading a campaign against Al Qaeda’s ideology – particularly their targeting of young boys. He spoke out against Al Qaeda in his sermons just few days before he was assassinated. We all expected that one day he would be killed by Al Qaeda, but instead he was killed by a US drone”.

“Obama’s secret drone wars have also killed schoolteachers, policemen, women and children. What we need from President Obama is an apology – and a promise that these terrible crimes will not be repeated.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve U.S., based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org+1 917 855 8064. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk/+44 (0) 207 553 8140.

2. In anticipation of today’s figures, international human rights group Reprieve released a report yesterday demonstrating how the Administration’s previous statements on the issue have proved to be false. The report is available here.

3. The Obama Administration’s figures are here. It claims to have killed 64-116 civilians in strikes outside of war zones.