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Researcher: Most Civilian Drone Deaths 'From Faulty Information'

  • VOA News

File photograph of an unmanned Predator B drone, taken November 8, 2011 (AP)

File photograph of an unmanned Predator B drone, taken November 8, 2011 (AP)

A researcher who helped a U.N. team investigate drone strikes in Pakistan says most civilian deaths from the attacks were the result of bad intelligence.

Imtiaz Gul runs the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad and sent his own researchers into parts of Waziristan province between 2008 and 2011.

Gul told VOA:

"Most of the cases in which innocent people got killed basically resulted from faulty information, but not entirely," said Gul. "Nobody really told us, and I would presume a number of people our team spoke to also withheld information because usually people also tend to hide the truth even in such situations."

Gul says fear is a major factor.

"These militants belong to a movement or to groups which see the United States as the oppressor, as the perpetrator, the violator of Pakistan sovereignty, so it is very difficult, extremely difficult for the people on the ground in the tribal areas to defend or support something that is killing members of the militant groups," he said.

A statement from the head of the U.N. team, released Friday, has been drawing attention for condemning the United States' use of drones in Pakistan as a "violation of Pakistan's sovereignty."

U.N. Special Envoy Ben Emmerson said Pakistan has also been "quite clear" on rejecting U.S. drone missions over its territory and that Islamabad believes the U.S. drone campaign "radicalizing a whole new generation, and thereby perpetuating the problem of terrorism in the region."

U.S. officials rarely discuss the use of drones against terrorists, though they say privately civilian casualties are minimal.

Imtiaz Gul says his researchers found the collateral damage is significant.

"Largely the pattern that emerged, in most of the cases, regardless of whether there was also a legitimate target present or not, a lot of innocent people, women and children also lost their lives," he said.

Gul said his teams spoke to families of alleged victims and then would try to corroborate allegations with local officials and tribal elders.

The findings on the impact of drone strikes in Pakistan will be part of a larger U.N. report on drones set to be presented later this year.

U.N. spokesman Eduardo del Buey told reporters Friday the preliminary findings have not changed the position of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"Like any other weapon, the use of armed UAVs is subject to long standing rules of international law including international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict," said del Buey. "He also believes there is a need for greater confidence in international community that the use of these weapons is within the bounds of international law."

The U.N. investigators spoke to military and government officials as well as people in tribal areas.