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$40 million Allocated for Drone Victims Never Reaches Them


Will I be next?” says the US government should ensure that victims of unlawful drone strikes, including family members, have effective access to remedies, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation. The Human Rights Watch report “Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Several human rights groups have approached lawmakers asking them to sponsor legislation calling for such a fund. But congresspeople have been reluctant to introduce what they consider a losing proposition. Even maverick Congressman Alan Grayson, who is hosting a congressional briefing for drone victims from Pakistan on October 29, turned down the idea. “There’s no sympathy in this Congress for drone strike victims,” he said. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>The peace group CODEPINK recently discovered that every year for the past four years, a pot of $10 million has been allocated for Pakistani drone strike victims. That would make a total of $40 million, quite a hefty sum to divide among a few hundred families. But it appears that none of this money has actually reached them. 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>But Tim Rieser, the long-time staffer for Senator Patrick Leahy who has worked to get this Pakistani civilian assistance fund included in the yearly Foreign Operations budget, expressed his exasperation about the use of the funds. “It’s been like hitting a brick wall every time we push the administration to use these funds for drone victims, since for years they wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of drone strikes,” said Rieser. “I seriously doubt that any of this money has reached the victims it was intended to help.” 

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mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Conflict Victims Support Fund
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mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>International Relief and Development
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of Civilians in Conflict, agrees with Rieser that the funds are being misused. “Sure, it's not easy to assess damage and compensate families in Pakistan where there are no boots on the ground to do a military investigation and where the drone operations are covert,” said Holewinski. “But the State Department does have personnel in Pakistan, including AID staff, and they could work with communities to figure out what harm occurred, why, by whom, and then determine what the civilians need/want/expect in order to feel dignified and assisted.” 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>To make up for the US lack of help, the Pakistani government says it steps in to offer assistance. But the victims covered in the Amnesty report said they either did not receive compensation from the Pakistani government or that it was inadequate. The family of 68-year-old Mamana Bibi, who was killed in North Waziristan while tending her crops, was furious mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>A 45-year-old Pakistani farmer told investigators of another report, Living Under Drones, that after his home was destroyed by a drone, he didn’t have the $1,000,000 rupees [US $10,500] to build a new house, so he and his family live in a rented room. “I spent my whole life in that house, my father had lived there was well….I belong to a poor family. I’m just hoping that I somehow recover financially,” he said. 

said during his confirmation hearing mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Most activists in the US and abroad are focusing, rightly so, on trying to stop the drone killing spree. But those already harmed deserve help. Mohamad al-Qawli, who just formed a network of drone strike victims in Yemen, thinks it’s the least the US should do. Al-Qawli’s brother was killed in a drone strike mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:Arial”>Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin), cofounder ofGlobal ExchangeCODEPINK: Women for PeaceDrone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control