Pakistan tells UN at least 400 civilians killed by drone strikes

Published: October 19, 2013
Pakistan has confirmed that of some 2,200 people killed by drone strikes in the past decade, at least 400 were civilians. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Pakistan has confirmed that of some 2,200 people killed by drone strikes in the past decade, at least 400 were civilians. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has confirmed that of some 2,200 people killed by drone strikes in the past decade, at least 400 were civilians and an additional 200 victims were deemed “probable non-combatants,” a UN human rights investigator said on Friday.

Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, also urged the United States to release its own data on the number of civilian casualties caused by its drone strikes.

Emmerson said Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry told him it had recorded at least 330 drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan’s largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, since 2004.

Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the US-led combat mission ends in 2014. Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them.

In an interim report to UN General Assembly released on Friday, Emmerson said Pakistani government records showed that drone strikes had killed at least 2,200 people and seriously wounded at least 600 since 2004.

He said Pakistan had confirmed that “at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of remotely piloted aircraft strikes and a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants.”

“Officials indicated that, owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures were likely to be an underestimate” of civilian deaths, Emmerson said.

Emmerson, who visited Pakistan in March, noted that principal media monitoring organizations had recorded a “marked drop” in reported civilians casualties from drone strikes in the tribal areas during 2012 and the first half of 2013.

The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan’s administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

“The involvement of CIA in lethal counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan and Yemen has created an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency,” Emmerson said.

“One consequence is that the United States has to date failed to reveal its own data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft in classified operations conducted in Pakistan and elsewhere.”

Yemen, Afghanistan

During his Senate confirmation process in February, CIA director John Brennan said the closely guarded number of civilian casualties from drone strikes should be made public. The US government, without releasing numbers, has sought to portray civilian deaths from these strikes as minimal.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the time that she had been trying to speak publicly about the “very low number of civilian casualties” and to verify that number each year has “typically been in the single digits.” However, she said she was told she could not divulge the actual numbers because they were classified.

In May, US President Barack Obama signed a document that he said codified guidelines for the use of force against terrorists. He said before drone strikes were taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians would be killed or wounded.

Emmerson urged the United States to declassify to the maximum extent possible information “relevant to its lethal extraterritorial counter-terrorism operations; and to release its own data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft, together with information on the evaluation methodology used.”

He reported that in Afghanistan, the UN mission said while casualties were likely underestimated, it had assessed that in recent years drones strikes appeared to have inflicted lower levels of civilian casualties than other air strikes.

Emmerson said “the United States appears to have succeeded in avoiding the infliction of large-scale loss of civilian life in Yemen” when carrying out drone strikes. “Nonetheless, there have been a number of incidents in which civilians have reportedly been killed or injured,” he said.

“The most serious single incident to date was a remotely piloted aircraft attack on 2 September 2012 in which 12 civilians were reportedly killed in the vicinity of Rada’a,” Emmerson said.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Asad Khan
    Oct 19, 2013 - 11:04AM

    Pakistan tells UN at least 400 civilians killed by drone strikes

    When the dust settles the real number of civilian killed & level of atrocities from both sides will emerge and then the world once again start the debate of woulda coulda shoulda.



  • Mj
    Oct 19, 2013 - 11:23AM

    @Asad Khan:
    It’s unlikely that the drones are intentionally targeting civilians. It’s also a fact that many terrorists keep living among civilians with their wives and relatives, exposing them to unnecessary risk.


  • dou
    Oct 19, 2013 - 12:09PM

    Compared to 40,000+ killed in terror strikes #perspectiveRecommend

  • Asad Khan
    Oct 19, 2013 - 12:12PM


    …….intentionally or not that is a forgone conclusion but innocent civilians died & ironically that is a fact.

    ….The very thin line that differentiates between a terrorist & a law enforcer is that the terrorist doesn’t respect no ethics no boundary, on the contrary respecting the principles is the virtue of a law enforcer.

    Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one



  • Saleem
    Oct 19, 2013 - 12:24PM

    So the real number is not in the thousands as claimed by the apologists and supporters of terrorists. By the way how many civilians did the Pakistan army and air force kill in their attacks.


  • Rex Minor
    Oct 19, 2013 - 1:39PM

    Let the USA dministration show the courage and recognise the jurisdiction of the International crimnal court at Hague? The USA is not only using Drones which Mr Obama is reported to personaly authorise each operation but also special fores which operate in foreign countries without the knowlede and the cooperation of their Governments. The extra judicial killings is the novelty of the Harvard constitutional law Professor!!!

    Rex Minor

    PS There are no terrorists in the waziri lands.


  • imran bhatt
    Oct 19, 2013 - 4:51PM

    I wonder Pakistan would ever ask UN to take action against those people who killed more than 50000 Pakistanis in Pakistan so far as Pakistan as a state unable to protect its citizens.


  • unbelievable
    Oct 19, 2013 - 5:29PM

    It would be interesting to know the names and relationship of the “civilians” to the terrorist who were targeted.


  • objective observer
    Oct 19, 2013 - 5:50PM

    Pakistan received roughly 400 million eight after complaint of 400 civilian deaths. That’s a good return if you ask me.


  • csmann
    Oct 19, 2013 - 5:56PM

    So it breaks down to
    1:drones:civilians killed-400-600(20-25%);Terrorists killed: 1600-1800
    2.Terrorists: civilians killed -50,000 ;military personnel killed-5000
    : So terrorists win hands down in the killing-the-innocents department.


  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Oct 19, 2013 - 6:37PM

    Why Pak govt. is insisting on holding the drone strike innstead the authorities should openly say to the terrorists that untill and unless they will announced that they are abided by the constitution of Pakistan and accordingly are ready to surrender their ileagal arms they are not going to be treated as Pak citizens and the area will be not covered with the laws of UN . At the same time Pak govt can’t clain any reliefe fron Hague . The Drone strike will continue unabated .Recommend

  • Mathematician
    Oct 19, 2013 - 7:00PM

    So 400 civillians out of 2200 deaths? That’s makes the civilian deaths 18% and militant death 82%. Where are all those who said the majority killed are civillians? Shameless lies spread around if one says he is standing up for the innocent killed should at least have the decency to also be truthful about the numbers cited.
    No wonder TTP is scared of drones and want them stopped more then anybody else.


  • Hedgefunder
    Oct 19, 2013 - 10:56PM

    Its called collateral damage ! How many people have died or injured by regular bomb blasts in past few years on the streets and bazaars of the Country ?
    Care to deal with that ?


  • numbersnumbers
    Oct 19, 2013 - 11:26PM

    @Rex Minor:
    So you say that “there are no terrorists in the Waziri lands”!!!
    Just where are those world famous “Safe Havens” (and Drone hunting grounds) for named terrorist organizations (assets of the state?) like the Haqqani network located then?


  • Vikram
    Oct 20, 2013 - 4:11AM

    @Asad Khan: Pakistan has bombed its own citizens in Baluchistan many times? How come media in Pakistan ignores most killings in Baluchistan? How much money Pakistanis made as bounty money for helping US on ground to locate the targets


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