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Human Rights

Amesty International criticizes US drone attacks in Pakistan

The human rights organization Amnesty International has accused the United States of carrying out unlawful killings in drone attacks in Pakistan. It also called on the US to end the secrecy surrounding such strikes.

An Amnesty International report released on Tuesday documented 45 confirmed US drone attacks in Pakistan's north-western tribal region between January 2012 and August 2013. The report, entitled “Will I be next? US drone strikes in Pakistan,” highlighted two incidents in particular, which it said may have violated international law.

In the first incident, the report said that 18 laborers were killed in a strike near the Afghan border as they were preparing to eat a meal at the end of their working day in July 2012. In the second, a 68-year-old woman was killed as she picked vegetables in her family's fields in October 2012.

"We cannot find any justification for these killings. There are genuine threats to the USA and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances," Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty's Pakistan researcher said.

"But it is hard to believe that a group of laborers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States."

The group also criticized the United States for a lack of transparency regarding such strikes.

"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," Quadri said.

In the report, Amnesty also calls on Washington to launch a public investigation into reports of civilians killed or wounded in US drone attacks.

There was no immediate comment on the report from the United States, but back in May, US President Barack Obama used a speech to defend the use of drone attacks in its battle against Islamist insurgents linked to the Taliban or al Qaeda. In that speech, the president said the US did not launch such attacks unless it had determined with "near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured."

The release of the report comes a day before Obama is due to meet with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the White House.

pfd/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)