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Kenneth Roth: Drones ‘anything but precise [and] targeted’

October 22nd, 2013
03:24 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

American drone strikes are “anything but precise [and] targeted,” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth told CNN’s Hala Gorani on Tuesday.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both released major new reports on drones, alleging that they kill far more civilians than the U.S. government has suggested.

“Time after time [the U.S. government] says it’s only going after militants, it says there is zero tolerance for civilian casualties, it says it’s extraordinarily careful,” Roth told Gorani, who was sitting in for CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “That’s just not the way it’s working out in practice.”

Roth said that his organization examined six different cases from Yemen, when the use of U.S. drone strikes under President Obama has proliferated.

“There was a taxi, an SUV, driving along with a dozen civilians in it,” Roth said. “It was hit – all the civilians were killed, including a pregnant woman, three children. There had been a militant driving along the road previously, but he wasn’t hit – it was this group of civilians who were.”

The problem, he told Gorani, is not whether drones are accurate, “surgical” weapons. They are indeed “extremely precise,” he acknowledged.

“They will tend to hit what you point them at,” Roth told Gorani. “The problem is that they’re only as good as the intelligence and the policies behind their use.”

In May, President Obama for the first time lay out his policy on drones – a topic on which the Administration had long remained mum.

“If killing is going to take place, it’s important that the standards articulated by the president in May be applied: That is to say only for an imminent threat to the United States, only if capture is not possible, and only if there is real certainty that there won’t be civilian casualties,” Roth said.

“Those standards are flouted over and over again.”

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. aurelius

    Right, the machine are no more accurate than the person behind it, and we have ineffective and incompetent staff running the targeting and firing parts.

    October 24, 2013 at 3:37 am | Reply

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