Drone Strikes

The CIA killer drones programme is the death penalty without trial, and the new face of US counter-terrorism policy.

Reprieve is assisting survivors and victims’ families in their fight for legal accountability, transparency and justice.

Reprieve opposes the illegitimate off-battlefield use of weaponised drones anywhere in the world. This programme has already killed more than 4,000 people – most of whom remain nameless, even to the Congressional Committees tasked with overseeing the policy.

As Reprieve began freeing Guantánamo Bay prisoners, the Bush Administration made it clear that the alternative to capture and detention was to instead just kill the people America saw as its enemies. Under the Obama Administration, this is exactly what came to pass – initially in secret. The CIA drone killing programme has taken the Guantánamo ‘legal black hole’ strategy one step further. Instead of imprisoning without due process, the US is now executing without due process. The president personally signs off each day’s ‘kill list’, and even authorised the killing of a US citizen along with his teenage son. Targeted killing via drone warfare is a clear change in US policy: from abduction, torture and detention to extra-judicial execution; yet with the same, if not greater, radicalising effect.

Like Guantánamo Bay, the drones programme initially attracted little opposition because its victims were presented as the ‘worst of the worst’. In fact, the CIA’s error rate is at least as bad as at Guantánamo Bay, and victims are never given a chance to defend themselves.

Reprieve is working to expose the truth about the drone strikes – that they kill and maim civilians, and that they radicalise the formerly moderate, swelling the numbers of those who wish to harm Western states.

We are at the forefront of investigating, litigating and publicising these attacks. We have taken witness statements from people affected by drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions, and we have partners on the ground there and in Yemen. We find survivors and victims’ families, help them to challenge strikes in court, and amplify their voices so that the world hears their stories. In October 2013, we brought drone strike survivors to the US to testify before US Congress – the first time that American politicians and the American public got to hear directly from victims of its shadowy and illegal war.

We will continue to support over 200 individuals and families affected by drone strikes, and help them to tell their stories, so that they are at the forefront of the official debate – a debate that has until now excluded them.


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  • America's deadly drones programme

    To date, the United States has used drones to execute without trial some 4,700 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – all countries against whom it has not declared war....

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