Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued a joint report accusing the United States of indiscriminately carrying out targeted killings in violation of international human rights law. “Between a Drone and al-Qaeda” documents six strikes in Yemen from between 2009 and 2013, showing a pattern of recklessly endangering civilians and going beyond President Barack Obama’s stated rules for extrajudicial attacks, possibly violating the laws of war and killing dozens of people with no ties to terrorism.
One of the problems with analyzing and criticizing the targeted killing program is that the Obama administration has been slow to release information about it, with much of our knowledge coming from leaked documents and later justifications. The White House refused to acknowledge its drone program until last year, and it’s released very little information about casualties or individual strikes (though it has provided some details about Americans killed by the program.) Amnesty and Human Rights Watch relied on outside reports of Yemeni drone strikes for overall statistics, then conducted six weeks of fieldwork on the cases it investigated, interviewing witnesses to the strikes, relatives of the victims, Yemeni officials, analysts, and others. Where videos and documents were available, they were also analyzed.
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