Drone Litigation

Litigation against the Government of Pakistan for failing to protect the Right to Life of its own citizens

Drone strikes were declared illegal by the Peshawar High Court in Foundation for Fundamental Rights vs. Federation of Pakistan & 4 others, (PLD 2013 Peshawar 94)and the Hon. Chief Justice, Dost Muhammad Khan gave comprehensive orders to the Government of Pakistan to provide legal redress to the victims.

The case was filed by FFR on behalf of the families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a gathering of community leaders for a tribal jirga. The jirga, a traditional dispute resolution mechanism, had been called to settle a long standing divisive issue over chromite mining in Datta Khel, North Waziristan.

This strike killed more than 50 tribal elders, including a number of government officials. The Hon. Chief Justice Dost Mohammad, found that the drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) constituted a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and a breach of international law. He wrote: “It is never permissible for killing to be the sole objective of an operation as is the case in these U.S. drone strikes.” In examining the evidence, the Chief Justice found that the majority of victims were women and small children and that claims of precision were undermined by the fact that innocent civilian casualties were a “hundred times greater than those . . . alleged to be militants.”

The Government of Pakistan owes a constitutional obligation to protect the right to life of its citizens and was so ordered to take immediate action to stop future attacks. In light of the remedies sought by FFR, the court also ordered the Government to take the matter to the UN Security Council, and in the event it did not succeed there, to request an urgent meeting of the General Assembly in order to resolve the matter. Given that the strikes constitute a serious breach of the Geneva Conventions, the government was also ordered to formally request that the UN Secretary General establish a War Crimes Tribunal to investigate the matter. Finally, the court held that the U.S. Government is bound to compensate all the victims’ families and that the Pakistani Government should take steps to ensure that this happened immediately.

A copy of the judgment can be found here: Download  

Litigation to hold Pakistani public officials responsible for drone strikes in Pakistan-Contempt proceedings

After the seminal judgment in Foundation for Fundamental Rights vs. Federation of Pakistan & 4 others,(PLD 2013 Peshawar 94) FFR has been dedicated to finding means to implement the clear and detailed orders given by the Peshawar High court to the Government of Pakistan. In doing so, it seeks to obtain compensation for its clients for the loss of lives of loved ones and damage to property and livestock as a result of the US drone strikes since 2004. As just one step towards this goal, FFR filed significant contempt petition against the incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif along with Secretary Defence and Secretary Foreign Affairs on 19th December 2013. The carefully worded petition asked for the Government to be directed to implement the clear directives of the court given on 9th May 2013 or face contempt proceedings for the non-implementation of these directives till date which have resulted in a number of continuing drone strikes and the further annihilation of innocent civilians including women, children, and students. The case is pending in the Peshawar High Court.

Criminal cases against CIA officials in Pakistan

Drones in Pakistan are operated by the United States through its covert intelligence agency, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in coordination with the US Air Force,which till date has targeted and killed more than 3719 citizens of Pakistan, a majority of these civilians, an estimated 202 of which wereyoung children. As the drone strikes inside Pakistan are without any legal authority therefore those involved in targeting people in Pakistan are committing simple homicide.

To establish criminal liability of those involved in unlawful killing FFR filed criminal charges againstlocal CIA officials. In this regard in 2010, FFR assisted our client, Kareem Khan who filed an application for registration of an FIR (first information report) against Jonathan Banks, the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad at that time for the death of Kareem Khan’s son and brother on 31st December 2009, various family members and fatally wounding 14 year old SadaUllah on 7 September 2009 and the death of Maezol Khan’s son due to drone strikes on 14th February 2009.

This criminal application since then has been before three different judges on question of jurisdiction and finally on 5th June 2014, the Honorable Islamabad High Court held that the Islamabad police have the jurisdiction to charge CIA officials in these cases and ordered the SHO Secretariat to file an FIR against the CIA Station Chief for the crimes of conspiracy, murder, waging war on Pakistan and various offences under the Anti-Terrorism Act.