July 19, 2011, New York – Yesterday, victims of drone attacks in Pakistan and their families filed a "First Information Report" (FIR) in Islamabad seeking an arrest warrant for John Rizzo, former general counsel to the CIA under the Bush administration, who during his tenure through June 2004 authorized dozens of strikes on the people of Pakistan, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries. The Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following staterment in support of the filing:
The "First Information Report" (FIR) filed by U.S. drone attack victims and their families accuses former CIA General Counsel John Rizzo of conspiracy to wage war and commit murder and other crimes in violation of Pakistani law, and to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in breach of international law. The FIR also calls on the Pakistan government to seek the assistance of Interpol, the international police organization, to enforce the warrant, and to request the extradition of Mr. Rizzo by the United States to answer for charges of murder.
The individuals who came forward as part of the FIR are part of a community of villages across the northwestern region of Pakistan that has suffered the brunt of U.S. targeted killings in the country. Their effort is a critical step towards accountability for the CIA’s drone program, which has claimed thousands of civilian lives and created greater instability in the region.
In addition to the deaths and destruction caused by the strikes, the communities in the region, where more than half the population lives below the poverty line – more than three times the national average – have endured psychological trauma by living under the constant threat of bombardment. The combination of poverty and political instability has further isolated the historically distinct region from the rest of Pakistan, contributing to the lack of political will by the country's leadership to confront the CIA’s drone program, and allowing the killings to continue largely unchallenged. The high civilian death toll has also been fuel for anti-American sentiment throughout Pakistan.
Shahzad Akbar, the Pakistani lawyer who filed the FIR on behalf of the families and victims and who has been a leading advocate in the legal fight against U.S. drones in Pakistan, said, "I constantly meet the relatives of those killed in these drone strikes, and they are all angry at America. This policy is simply further radicalizing an unstable region. People living in countries supporting this war with their tax money need to ask questions from their governments if their money is being spent on such gruesome murders of women and children. And Pakistanis need to ask their government of their involvement in these gruesome murders, and inaction of Pakistan authorities also makes them party to this mayhem.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights stands in solidarity with the work of Shahzad Akbar and other advocates in efforts to challenge extrajudicial killings by the United States in Pakistan and elsewhere, and extends its support and respect to the family members of victims who have courageously come forward.
Last year, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the authorization for the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen in Yemen in Al-Aulaqi v. Obama, which was dismissed by the district court in Washington, DC, on jurisdictional grounds.