UNITED NATIONS: The government of 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 U.N. human rights investigator said on Friday.
Ben Emmerson, U.N. 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 says that preliminary information gathered for a report released Friday indicated that more than 450 civilians may have been killed in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. It says more work needs to be done to confirm these figures.
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 U.S.-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 U.N. 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.