US defends drone strikes amid accusations they violate international law

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US defends drone strikes amid accusations they violate international law

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The US has defended itself against accusations it has violated international law through drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.

Amnesty International allege the drone strikes resulted in the unlawful killing of civilians and, in some cases, “appear to be war crimes”.

Jay Carney, spokesman for the White House, has strongly denied the accusations.

He said: “To the extent these reports claim that the US has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree.

“The administration has repeatedly emphasised the extraordinary care that we take to make sure counter-terrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law.

“US counter-terrorism operations are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective, and the United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorists.”

Images shown around the world suggest that, although terrorists are being targeted, the drone strikes are also causing civilian casualties, provoking strong reactions from human rights groups:

“We find two clear cases of violations of the laws of war, violations, but not reaching the level of war crimes, which is a different category,” said Letta Tayler, senior counter-terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“We also find strong evidence in the other four cases we examined of violations of the laws of war, but we’re not calling them.. we’re not 100 percent sure, precisely because the Obama administration will not give us access to the additional information,” Tayler added.

The strikes have also caused outrage in Pakistan, where many argue they cause indiscriminate deaths and injuries.

Speaking from the US, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif labelled the attacks a “major irritant” in relations with Washington, and said they violated Pakistan’s sovereignty.

President Obama will discuss the issue with Sharif at The White House on Wednesday, in the first meeting at this level since 2009.