Rights group says US undercounts drone civilian casualties

July 2, 2016 9:30 am

A made Reaper drone

International
organization Reprieve has accused the White House of downplaying
civilian casualties from US drone strikes.

Published by
the Director of National Intelligence on Friday, a review of drone
operations outside of war zones claims that between 64 to 116 civilians
have been killed in 473 aerial strikes since President Barack Obama took
office in 2009.
The strikes were conducted by drones, traditional
aircraft or cruise missiles in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and
other African countries, the report said.
Up to 2,581 “combatants” were also reported killed in the strikes between January 20, 2009, and December 31, 2015.
The casualty figure does not reflect US air strikes in “areas of active hostilities” such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.
Watchdogs
have long said that the Obama administration does not have a clear
picture on the civilian casualties caused by its drone program. They say
as many as 1,100 civilians have lost their lives in the lethal attacks.
Reprieve
said the US government’s previous casualty estimates from drone strikes
have proven to be false by its own internal documents.

“It
has to be asked what bare numbers will mean if they omit even basic
details such as the names of those killed and the areas, even the
countries, they live in,” the group said in a report.

“The
Obama Administration has shifted the goalposts on what counts as a
‘civilian’ to such an extent that any estimate may be far removed from
reality,” it added.
“In US drone operations, reports suggest all
‘military aged males’ and potentially even women and children are
considered ‘enemies killed in action’ unless they can ‘posthumously’ and
‘conclusively’ prove their innocence,” it explained.
The Obama
administration regularly uses drones for airstrikes and spying missions
in several countries, with Pakistan and Afghanistan bearing the brunt of
the attacks.
The White House says the airstrikes only target
members of al-Qaeda and other militants, but local officials and
witnesses say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks in
most cases.
In April, Obama acknowledged that civilians had been
killed in US drone attacks and promised more transparency about the
program.
Rights groups are especially concerned about “signature
strikes,” one of the most controversial aspects of the CIA drone
program, where people with unknown identities are targeted based on
their looks, suspicious behavior, or other “signatures.”

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