Human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released reports Tuesday, saying that the U.S. drone program is unlawfully killing innocent bystanders in Pakistan and Yemen.
Amnesty International's report "'Will I be next?' U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan" investigates nine of the 45 reported drone strikes that took place between January 2012 through September 2013. The report discloses that some of the victims hit by the drones were not the intended al Qaida or Taliban targets but civilians.
The report tells of an October 2012 strike that killed a 68 year old woman who was struck as she picked vegetables for her grandchildren, some of whom were injured.
Another witness account describes an occasion where a large group of men who gathered in a tent to relax and mingle were attacked by drones not once, but twice. The report says the first attack killed 8 people and the second attack came moments later, after locals had rushed to help the wounded. The incident wounded 22 people and killed 18 men, including a 14-year-old boy.
The report released by Human Rights Watch concentrated on investigations of reported drone strikes in Yemen that yielded similar descriptions of civilian casualties.
Both reports mentioned the difficulty their organizations experienced in gathering the information about the drone strikes due to the U.S. government's lack of disclosure on the subject.
The Amnesty report suggests that the U.S. could possibly be committing international war crimes on account of some of the drone strikes that have occurred.
"Amnesty International is seriously concerned that these and other strikes have resulted in unlawful killings that may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes," the report stated.
But U.S. Officials have stated that drones are a necessary tool in the war on terrorism and they have indicated no intention of discontinuing the drone program.
"To the extent these reports claim that the U.S. has acted contrary to international law we would strongly disagree," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing Tuesday, CNN reported. "The administration has repeatedly emphasized the extraordinary care that we take to make sure that counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law," he said.
Obama also defended the drone program , when it came into question this past May, by saying that the unmanned airplanes would only be used if there was an "imminent threat," and when they was "near certainty" that civilians would not be hurt and "no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat," CNN reported.
But both watchdog groups make the point that the war on terror is no excuse for the needless death of civilians. They also state that if the U.S. continues drone attacks, the family members of innocents who have been killed or injured may join Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups just for the opportunity to seek revenge.
"We Yemenis are the ones who pay the price of the 'war on terror,'" Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a relative of a cleric and a police officer who were both killed in a drone attack in August 2012, said in the Human Rights Watch report. "We are caught between a drone on one side and al Qaida on the other."