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. President Obama 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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Latest Updates


  • 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....

Active Cases

Press Releases

  • UK bases used for targeting in secret US drone war, documents indicate

    October 30, 2016

    Personnel on military bases in the UK have been involved in choosing targets for a secret US drone campaign which has killed hundreds of civilians in violation of international law, documents obtained by human rights charity Reprieve indicate.

  • UK Government adopts US principles on secret drone war

    October 19, 2016

    The British Government has adopted some of the key principles of the US covert drone programme, a response to MPs published today shows.

  • Drone killing: cash is no substitute for genuine transparency

    September 16, 2016

    In response to reports that the Obama Administration has agreed to pay €1m to the family of an Italian aid worker who was killed in a US drone strike in 2015, Jennifer Gibson, Reprieve staff attorney, said: "The Lo Porto family's terrible ordeal shows that the secret drone program is nothing like as accurate as the US Government claims...

  • US needs to lead by example on international drones agreements

    August 26, 2016

    The US Government is seeking international agreements on the "'applicability of international law' and human rights when using armed drones," according to documents obtained by Defense News.

  • Drone death figures show the U.S. "simply doesn't know who it has killed"

    July 1, 2016

    Responding to civilian casualty figures released by the White House today, international human rights organization Reprieve has expressed dismay at how little the Obama Administration appears to know about those it has killed in its covert use of lethal drones outside of war zones.

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