Press Releases
U.S. Drone Strikes Kill, Injure and Traumatize Pakistani Civilians, Report Finds
October 17, 2012

A new report by human rights experts at Stanford and NYUpresents first-hand accounts of harm to civilians

Stanford, CA & New York, NY — U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan kill and injure civilians, create pervasive fear in the civilian population, and may be counterproductive to U.S. security interests, according to a report released today by human rights experts at Stanford and New York University law schools.

The report, called “Living Under Drones,” describes the conditions of daily life in communities in northwest Pakistan where drones hover 24 hours a day, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women and children, driving many to stay away from school, funerals, and routine economic, social, and communal activities.

“We heard horrendous stories from people who lost loved ones, who witnessed drone strikes, or had been injured themselves,” said Professor James Cavallaro, Director of the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School and an author of the report. “And perhaps most shocking are the psychological and social ramifications for whole families and communities.  People are scared to go to the market, to school, to socialize because of the terror that a drone could strike anywhere at any moment.”

The Stanford-NYU research team conducted nine months of research, including two investigations in Pakistan. Researchers interviewed over 130 individuals, including civilians who traveled out of the largely inaccessible region of North Waziristan to meet with the research team. They also interviewed medical doctors who treated strike victims, humanitarian professionals, and journalists who worked in drone-impacted areas.

One small business owner from North Waziristan described the devastation caused by drones. Strikes “destroy human beings,” he said.  Afterwards, “there is nobody left and small pieces left behind. Pieces. Whatever is left is just little pieces of bodies and cloth.” The everyday effect of drone strikes was underscored by the president of the local journalists union. “If I am walking in the market, I have this fear that maybe the person walking next to me is going to be a target of a drone…[or]…Maybe they will target the car in front of me or behind me.”

“The voices of the people who live where drones fly constantly – and who bear the primary costs of U.S. drone attacks – are largely absent in the U.S. public debates and in the U.S. media,” said another report author Professor Sarah Knuckey, a human rights lawyer at NYU, and former advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. “This report is a step towards bringing their accounts to a U.S. audience. Policy-makers and the American public cannot continue to ignore evidence of harm and counter-productive impacts of U.S. drone strikes. A significant rethinking of current policies, in light of all relevant short and long-term costs and benefits, is long overdue.”

Accompanying the report is a video featuring the testimony of some of the scores of drone strike victims interviewed in Pakistan. The video was produced by the media non-profit Brave New Foundation and its President Robert Greenwald and can be found at


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