The US government has long maintained that its drone strike programme, whilst tiptoeing very finely along the line of international legality, is still practical, efficient and morally OK. A new report from human rights organisation Amnesty International throws doubt on that, with rather shocking examples like a 68-year-old grandmother Hellfired into oblivion whilst out picking vegetables.
Amnesty have looked into nine of 45 recent drone strikes in the tribal region bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, an area almost completely under Taliban control and therefore notorious for its drone strikes. Although many of the targets are 'legitimate' militants, they found numerous cases of mistaken strikes, including one that killed 18 labourers as they gathered for dinner, and a further series of two strikes that killed a grandmother out picking vegetables, then killed those who came to help her shortly after.
The Amnesty report was released in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch which highlights six drone strikes on the Arabian Peninsula which is says are in "clear violation of international humanitarian law", as two of them "killed indiscriminately", and others caused 'disproportionate' civilian deaths.
All in all, it's not been a good few days for the US drone programme. Today's reports join a UN report last week that states that the US has been responsible for over 400 civilian deaths in Pakistan, more that they've ever acknowledged. Undoubtedly, though, not a lot is going to change as a result of these findings -- it's hardly the worst PR the US military has ever endured. [Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch via Guardian]