Van Bommel meets with drone victims

19 February 2014

Van Bommel meets with drone victims

SP-Kamerlid Harry van Bommel welcomed victims of American drone attacks to a special meeting in the Dutch national parliament in The Hague on Wednesday. ‘Attention is paid regularly in the media and by politicians to this drone war,’ says Van Bommel, ‘but one aspect figures always far too little, and that is the aspect which involves the many innocent victims. So it’s good that these people from Pakistan were in The Hague today.’

Harry van Bommel with Noor Behram and Karim Khan
Left to right: Noor Behram, Harry van Bommel, Karim Khan

Karim Khan is one of these victims. In an attack in 2009 he lost his brother and his son. He spoke about these events, which he called an unrelenting nightmare, stressing the huge number of civilian victims who have lost their lives as a result of the attacks. Shortly before his departure for the Netherlands he was arrested, presumably by the intelligence service. He thanked Van Bommel and other MPs for their efforts in calling for his release.

Also present was Noor Behram, a journalist in the North Waziristan region, where the attacks are taking place. Just as did Khan, he noticed that in the papers it was often only the number of armed militants who had died which was noted, though in reality far more civilians had been killed. He based this on his visits to places where there had been attacks and his meetings with surviving victims. Behram is one of the few journalists active in the region itself.

Karim Khan’s lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, who accompanied him on the trip, decried the secrecy surrounding the drone operations, principally because it represents a major obstacle to calling the perpetrators to account. The United States government has not once admitted responsibility for any drone attack in Pakistan. The lawyer also noted problems in relation to the reliability of US intelligence, which once appeared to claim that they had killed the same terrorist nine times. The reality is that it was often not known who had died, the lawyer said.

Kat Craig, legal director of the British human rights organisation Reprieve, organised the trip to the Netherlands. She confirmed that the Americans often don’t know who they’re shooting their drone rockets at, and that frequently such attacks were based on no more than the presence of a phone with no evidence that its owner is the person under suspicion.

‘The SP has long been convinced that the American drone war was a bad thing, and today that has been confirmed once more,’ says Van Bommel. ‘Shortly Parliament will hold a debate on this issue, and I’ll be calling on Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans to condemn illegal drone attacks, demand transparency on the attacks and ask for clarification as to how targets are selected.’

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