Pakistan Is the Only Country In Which Families of Civilian Victims of U.S. Drones Have Not Been Compensated
Why are Pakistani families the only ones not compensated by the U.S. government when their civilian family members are killed by U.S. assassin drones? Families in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia have been compensated, but not in Pakistan.
That was a question I was asked two weeks ago in Islamabad, Pakistan during a meeting with lawyers of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. FFR is a human rights organization that coordinated our October 2012 CODEPINK: Women for Peace delegation to Pakistan. The purpose of the 2012 trip was to speak with family members of victims of U.S. assassin drone strikes and come back to the U.S. to write articles and arrange speaking events to educate the U.S. public about who was really being killed in the assassin drone strikes.
International human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar headed FFR which has coordinated with the UK human rights group Reprieve to document deaths in Pakistan caused by U.S. drone strikes. Akbar is now on the staff of the new Prime Minister Imran Khan. Akbar is working on accountability and transparency issues for the Khan administration.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), there were 430 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 until August 2015. These drone strikes killed approximately 4,026 persons. Of these, 969 were civilians, including 207 children. President Obama authorized 370 of the 430 drone strikes.
Many organizations suspect the number of civilian deaths is likely to be far higher. For every militant killed, at least 10 to 15 civilians are being killed. A comprehensive investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that only 12% of those killed in Pakistan by drones over the past 10 years were militants. Al Qaeda members, the original intended targets of the drone program, constitute only 4% of those killed.
Lawyers from the Foundation for Fundamental Rights spoke to me about their research on U.S. compensation for U.S. assassin drone victims. With the UK human rights group Reprieve, FFR has documented that the U.S. has compensated families of civilians killed in drone attacks in Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq, but no families of civilian victims in Pakistan have been compensated.
Their report entitled" Do We Not Bleed?" gives the data on U.S. compensation -- an Afghan or Iraqi life is valued by the U.S. at $50,000 and a Yemeni life from $60,000 up to $100,000 if the death was sufficiently "embarrassing" to the U.S. A six-year old Afghan boy's legs were worth $11,000. A wheelbarrow full of broken mirrors was compensated with $4,047 and seven Afghan cows were valued at $2,253.
U.S. payments for injury, death and damaged property in Iraq were $20 million in 2005 alone. After fighting in Najaf in October 2004, the U.S. Marines paid $570,000 in a single day for death condolence payments and property damage.
In 2009, the U.S. paid more than $18 million in Iraq alone. There were 5,766 claims made in Afghanistan between February 2003 and August 2011 of which 1,671 were paid for a total of about $3.1 million. 753 claims were denied.
The only exception to compensation payments for deaths occurring by U.S. drones on Pakistani soil occurred when two international aid workers were killed by a U.S. drone. On January 14, 2015, U.S. citizen Warren Weinstein and Italian citizen Giovanni Lo Porto, both of whom had been kidnapped by militant groups years before, were killed when the U.S. targeted their captors with a drone. In announcing their deaths was the only time President Obama ever named drone victims and issued an apology.