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Obama Pressed to Investigate Civilian Deaths in US Drone Strikes

WASHINGTON - The Obama Administration has been formally asked by rights groups to investigate ten US drone strikes which appear to have killed civilians either needlessly or mistakenly. 

In a letter sent today, Reprieve and eleven other human rights organizations request that President Obama fulfil the terms of his July 1 Executive Order on drone killing by investigating credible 

allegations of harm to civilians. The letter asks that the Administration publicly acknowledge US government responsibility for these strikes, investigate them and provide details of any lessons to be learned.

President Obama's classified drone program has killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen without formal acknowledgement or apology. A study by international human rights organization Reprieve, which assists civilian victims of drone strikes, found that the program killed an estimated 28 unknown people for every intended target. In a public discussion in April 2016, the President revealed that the program’s legal architecture and command structures were “underdeveloped” until 2013.

This week, President Obama admitted to worrying that future US presidents may be able to engage in perpetual covert drone wars “all over the world… without any accountability or democratic debate.”  Yesterday, his Administration announced an international declaration on the applicability of international law and human rights in the use of armed drones, warning that "misuse... could fuel conflict and instability".
Yet the Obama Administration is also arguing in the US federal court case Jaber v Obama - scheduled to be argued in Washington, DC on December 13 - that its drone killing program and practices are beyond the reach of the US courts, even where the most heinous war crimes have been committed.
Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve said:  "President Obama is right to warn of a perpetual covert drone war; he is right to promise transparency. But his words aren't enough. The Obama Administration must investigate mistakes in the drone program, keep an accurate count of civilian deaths and be publicly accountable. That process must start now. Any delay could mean that President Obama's promised transparency vanishes with a new Administration, and that his worst fears about drones come to pass."

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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