Will Anyone Answer Why a Wedding Party Was Blown to Pieces?

Incredibly, the White House is staying silent on yesterday’s news of an alleged drone strike in Yemen that reportedly killed 15 people traveling to a wedding.

"President Obama: End Your #GameOfDrones Now," University of Texas-Austin

“President Obama: End Your #GameOfDrones Now,” University of Texas-Austin

Even though President Obama called civilian casualties “heartbreaking tragedies” in a May 2013 speech, his Administration has been unwilling to acknowledge specific killings, let alone investigate and provide compensation or reparation to survivors and families.

This includes the family of grandmother Mamana Bibi, who was who was struck and killed by a drone’s Hellfire missiles while gathering vegetables in her family’s fields in October 2012. Though her grandchildren visited members of Congress earlier this year, the White House has never publicly recognized the killing or the family’s loss.

“I hope I can return home with a message,” Mamana Bibi’s grandson told members of Congress. “I hope I can tell my community that Americans listened.”

The White House can still change course and ends its policy of secrecy. We are calling on President Obama to publicly commit to investigating all credible reports of potentially unlawful killings, including those documented in our report.

It’s time to stop the silence, and start being accountable.

You can help, sign our petition.

This is How You Fight Drones

Amnesty USA's Game of Drones action on the University of Texas- Austin campus.

Amnesty USA’s Game of Drones action on the University of Texas- Austin campus.

This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour.Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

When I shut the classroom door, the only sound left was the buzzing of the dim fluorescent lights overhead. We could no longer hear the theater students practicing their monologues in the hallway, or the voices of the Amnesty members in the classroom next door frantically flipping through the report on drones in Pakistan as they made signs for our action the next day. “You’re sure you have time for this?” I asked Sahare, as I slid into the desk and took out my phone to record her message.

“Yes, of course,” Sahare said. Her sad eyes held mine, unwavering. “I need to do this as a tribute to my grandmother. Without her inspiration, I wouldn’t be here.”

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Hit and Run: Congress Must Not Let CIA Get Away with Murder

By Naureen Shah, Advocacy Advisor at Amnesty International USA

A year ago almost to the day, on October 24, 2012, a U.S. drone strike killed a 68-year-old woman named Mamana Bibi. She was gathering vegetables in her family’s large, mostly vacant fields in north Waziristan, Pakistan. We don’t know whom the U.S. intended to target, but it is hard to imagine that a policy that allows the killing of this grandmother, who was blown to pieces before the eyes of her young grandchildren, is anything but a catastrophic failure on the part of the U.S. government.

The latest revelation from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, reported in the Washington Post, suggests the NSA cast a “surveillance blanket” over parts of northern Pakistan, feeding enormous amounts of data to the CIA’s secret lethal drone program. Even if the NSA didn’t pick up chatter after the killing of this grandmother, the U.S. government claims that it conducts post-strike assessments of who is killed. It knew, or should have known, that something went wrong.

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Time for the U.S. to End Its Drone Secrecy

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By Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan Research at Amnesty International

It was a sunny October afternoon last year when Mamana Bibi was blown to pieces before her grandchildren’s very eyes. The family matriarch, Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family fields in northwestern Pakistan when a remotely piloted aircraft – or “drone” – used by the United States fired a missile directly toward her, killing Mamana instantly. A second volley of missiles was fired a few minutes later, injuring some of the children who ventured out to where their grandmother had been struck.

Almost a year to the day, the Bibi family’s lives have been torn apart. In a number of in-depth interviews over the last eight months, the family recounted to me how they sold ancestral lands to pay for their injured relatives’ steep medical bills. Mamana’s grief-stricken elderly husband, a respected retired local headmaster, rarely leaves the house. Their grandchildren, including 8-year-old Nabeela, now live in constant fear of the drones, which seem ever present in the skies.

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5 Points President Obama Should Make in Thursday’s National Security Speech

America shouldn't stand for GuantanamoThis Thursday at 1:30p.m. eastern, President Obama will deliver a widely anticipated speech at National Defense University that is expected to address closing Guantanamo, drones and US counterterrorism policy.

If President Obama is serious about ending human rights violations by the US government in the name national security, he should use the speech to announce, among other points, that:

1)  Forced feeding will stop and the transfer of detainees cleared to leave will resume.  There are dozens cleared by the administration to leave the detention facility. Even under current Congressional conditions on transfers, these men can and must be transferred out where there are  countries to take them that will respect their human rights.

One example is Shaker Aamer. He has been cleared for transfer under the Bush and Obama administrations, and the British government says he should be free with his wife and children in London. Why has he not been transferred there? Instead of brutal force feeding of detainees, it’s time to fulfill human rights.

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What Needs to Happen Next on Drones?

President Obama should publicly disclose the secret drone memos with only the redactions truly necessary, as well as the facts about who has been killed. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Obama administration must follow the law on lethal force (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s been a hectic 24 hours on the Obama administration’s use of drones and lethal force. As I write this, Senator Paul has accepted Attorney General Holder’s answer about drone strikes on US soil and the Senate has confirmed John Brennan—one of the architects of the drone killing program—as Director of the CIA. There’s a lot to unpack about what’s happened and where things stand now.

But I want to focus on what should happen next to make sure that no person—US citizen or anyone else—is killed outside the bounds of law with a drone or other weapons.

1) The Obama administration must follow existing law on the use of lethal force.

Senator Durbin said yesterday that the administration is interested in working with Congress to pass legislation, but that misses a key point, namely, that the law governing any state’s use of lethal force—whether with a drone or a gun or most other weapons—already exists: international human rights law and, in the exceptional circumstances where it applies, international humanitarian law as well. The US government must follow the law.

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Drones, Filibusters, Kill Lists and More

Anti-war protesters disrupt the start of a nomination hearing for U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan before the Senate Intelligence Committee February 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Anti-war protesters disrupt the start of a nomination hearing for U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan before the Senate Intelligence Committee February 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Yesterday,the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed a new director of the CIA — John Brennan. He is a controversial figure, and as you read this Senator Rand Paul and a bi-partisan group of Senators may still be attempting to filibuster the final Senate vote on his nomination. (You can check here.)

What’s the controversy? John Brennan is one of the chief architects of the administration’s drone killing policy, which has reportedly resulted in 4,700 people killed so far, according to Senator Lindsey Graham.

Read that number again. 4,700 human beings killed. Call us crazy, but don’t you think the world — including the thousands of people and families directly affected by drone attacks worldwide – deserves to know on what basis the Obama administration claims the right to kill people?

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5 Questions on Drones Senators Should Ask Attorney General Holder on Wednesday

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its ninth periodic oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Wednesday, March 6th at 9 a.m. with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder  (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images).

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its ninth periodic oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Wednesday, March 6th at 9 a.m. with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images).

On Wednesday March 6th at 9 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its ninth periodic oversight hearing of the Department of Justice with Attorney General Eric Holder. It’s not a hearing on drones and the Obama administration’s counter terrorism policy, but it should be.

As we saw with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearing with John Brennan several weeks ago, the Obama administration’s killing program remains shrouded in secrecy and the little information we do know gives grounds to conclude that the program as a whole allows for the use of lethal force that violates the right to life under international law.

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Why Drone Death Courts are a Terrible Idea

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Public thirst is growing for more information about the Obama administration’s death-by-drone program and what can be done to ensure US policies do not authorize unlawful killings— whether of a US citizen or anyone else. Unfortunately,  a number of commentators—including the editorial board of the New York Times—have proposed the idea of a special court to review the Obama administration’s kill list, along the lines of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which reviews executive surveillance and search requests in espionage or terrorism cases. It’s a terrible idea that underscores how far from basic human rights principles the “global war” approach to countering terrorism has taken the US government.

A secret drone death-warrant court, would in some sense be issuing a warrant of execution, without the condemned person ever knowing that a “charge” has been laid, that a “trial” has taken place, or that a “verdict” and “sentence” has been passed, let alone being able to defend themselves in the proceedings in any way.  If “global war” thinking hadn’t permeated so much of the way the US government thinks and talks about how to deal with the threat of terrorism, the proposal by some to establish a special court that would secretly review and approve government proposals to conduct lethal drone strikes would immediately be rejected as a non-starter that misses the point.

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