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Major rights group blasts growing US reliance on assassination drones

Major rights group blasts growing US reliance on assassination drones

Major human rights group Amnesty International (AI) has blasted the US for its growing use of assassination drones as part of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing bid in Muslim nations abroad, saying the measure violates international laws.

In a Wednesday report titled Global Review of Human Rights Issues, the UK-based rights group questioned the legitimacy of American terror drone operations overseas, saying they are shrouded in secrecy and amount to extrajudicial executions, AP reported.

“Available information, limited by secrecy, indicated that US policy permitted extrajudicial executions in violation of international human rights law under the USA’s theory of a ‘global war’ against al-Qaeda and associated groups,” said the AI report.

Further challenging the legitimacy of the Obama administration’s official targeted-killing policy, AI’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said, “We have issues with how the United States defines the ‘theater of war,’ which is a very broad definition which allows them a free reign to use drones and other weapons under a very wide set of circumstances.”

Shetty also censured the secrecy around the assassination drone strikes remotely carried out by the US military and its spy agency CIA, adding, “Our researchers, when talking to people in Pakistan, find that the people are living in constant fear in very remote areas. You really cannot figure out, at the end of the day, who has been injured or killed in a [terror] drone attack.”

The development comes as top administration officials have been cited in press report as revealing US plans to further expand its use of assassination drones and other “counterterrorism” measures in Muslim countries as the US-led war in Afghanistan winds down at the end of 2014, when most US troops are due to withdraw.

In its Wednesday report, AI further slammed American authorities for the growing reliance of its police forces on Taser stun guns, emphasizing that “tasers have been listed as a cause or contributory factor in more than 60 deaths” in the US since 2001.

“Most of those who died after being struck with a Taser were not armed and did not appear to pose a serious threat when the Taser was deployed,” the report noted.

AI also underlined that in May 2012, “the American Heart Association published a report which presented the first scientific, peer-reviewed evidence concluding that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death.”

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama is due to address his administration’s growing reliance on assassination drone attacks in a Thursday speech at the National Defense University, a Pentagon-financed military institution based in the US capital.

Moreover, on the eve of Obama’s speech, US Attorney General Eric Holder admitted for the first time that four American citizens have been murdered in assassination drone attacks conducted by the CIA and US military over Pakistan and Yemen since 2009 in Pakistan and Yemen.

The US government has targeted and killed one American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, and is aware of the killing by US [terror] drones of three others, Holder reportedly said in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

According to the letter, the three other Americans killed by the assassination drones were were Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki; al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who also was killed in Yemen; and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.

This is while American civil liberties groups and a rare coalition of Democratic and Republican lawmakers have slammed the Obama administration for keeping most details about the terror drone operations secret.

The major concern of these critics has been the administration’s use of the drone attacks to kill American citizens abroad with no legal basis.

Furthermore, US assassination drone strikes have drastically climbed under Obama. According to the Long War Journal, which tracks American terror drone attacks, there were 35 such attacks in Pakistan during 2008, the last year George Bush was president. The number of drone bombings climbed to 117 in 2010, then fell to 64 in 2011 and 46 in the past year.

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