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Tag Archives: Shahzad Akbar

Pakistani lawyers rally to condemn NATO strikes on Pakistani troops, in Karachi, Pakistan, on Monday, Nov 28, 2011. The NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers went on for almost two hours and continued even after Pakistani commanders had pleaded with coalition forces to stop, the army claimed Monday in charges that could further inflame anger in Pakistan. Placard on right reads " Go ahead Pakistan army we are with you."

Jason Koebler | U.S. News

A Pakistani lawyer who has presided over lawsuits against the United States government for its drone attacks in his country blasted the CIA for expanding its strategy in Yemen to include drone strikes on suspected terrorists.

According to the Associated Press, the authorization will allow the CIA to kill suspected terrorists, even if they aren’t able to identify who the suspect is, but only with Yemeni permission. If a suspect is determined to be of low importance, permission to kill will be denied. But Shahzad Akbar, an attorney with the Pakistani Foundation for Fundamental Rights said in Washington, D.C. Thursday that the move only gives the CIA less incentive to discover suspects’ identities.

“They can’t kill them if they know someone is a low value target, however they can kill if they don’t know that person,” he said. “We were confused reading about it this morning.”

[FAA Releases List of Registered Domestic Drone Operators]

Pardiss Kebriaei, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights who filed charges (and lost in court) against the Obama administration for overstepping his bounds in ordering the killing of suspected terrorist and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, says that the “level of authority [granted in Yemen] is new.”

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The US has been criticised for not widely reporting casualties of CIA drone strikes abroad. Photograph: Bonny Schoonakker/AFP/Getty Images

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian

The human cost of the US government’s clandestine drone strikes strategy, including the deaths of young children in Pakistan and Yemen, will be highlighted this weekend as campaigners attempt to challenge domestic support for the Obama administration‘s controversial policy.

A conference in Washington, at which new video testimony will be shown from the relatives of victims, is the first step in a collaborative campaign to challenge Barack Obama’s claim in February that the strikes, aimed at terror suspects, were kept on a “tight leash” and had not inflicted huge civilian casualties.

The summit’s organisers – the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve and the peace group Code Pink – hope it will increase awareness of how the CIA-controlled programme is operating in secret, without a clear legal framework and without any accountability to Congress.

Earlier this month, the US government announced it was expanding its controversial use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists in Yemen.

Chris Woods, a journalist at the British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who exposed CIA drone attacks on rescuers and funeralgoers in Pakistan, described the summit as an “extraordinary heavyweight gathering”. He said: “Washington has not seen anything like this before.”

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Shahzad Akbar told the Guardian: 'They weren't being really smart because it gave me more importance and more of an audience.' Photograph: Mian Kursheed/Reuters

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian

The US government has granted a visa to a lawyer representing civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan who is due to speak at a Washington conference this weekend, following months of pressure by activists and lawyers.

After a 14-month delay in his visa application, which began after he sued the CIA over drone strikes in Pakistan, Shahzad Akbar will now be able to attend the drone summit.

Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who founded the Islamabad-based human rights organisation, Foundation for Fundamental Rights, said he was grateful for the pressure brought to bear on the government by the conference organisers, their supporters and those who covered the story.

Last month, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve, and the peace group Codepink criticised the failure to grant a visa to Akbar, a critical advocate for victims of drone attacks and a key speaker who was to provide a voice for the victims of drone strikes in tribal Pakistan.

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Shaun Waterman | The Washington Times

A Pakistani lawyer who is suing the CIA to stop its campaign of lethal drone attacks against top terrorists there has been granted a visa to enter the United States to publicize his case.

The decision to admit Mirza Shahzad Akbar may prove controversial.

One of his clients in the lawsuit, who says his relatives were civilian casualties of a drone strike, deliberately outed the CIA station chief in Islamabad in December 2010. The chief had to be withdrawn hurriedly.

“I am glad that better sense prevailed and the State Department is finally letting me into the country,” Mr. Akbar said in a statement Tuesday.

He will be a keynote speaker at a conference this weekend in Washington organized by legal critics of the CIA drone strike program and feminist antiwar group Code Pink.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ramah Kudaimi, Drone Summit Organizer, rkudaimi@gmail.com
April 24, 2012

National — After months of pressure from human rights activists, the U.S. government has granted Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar a visa to attend and speak at an International Drone Summit in Washington DC on April 28, 2012.

The Summit is organized by the peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Akbar, co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights, filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims of CIA drone strikes and has been a critical force in litigating and advocating on victims’ behalf. He had been invited to speak in the US before and first sought a visa nearly a year ago. His request had been pending since then.

“I am glad that better sense prevailed and the State Department is finally letting me into the country after 14 months of delay and tireless efforts by the Summit organizers,” Akbar said. “I will be speaking to American people about the loss of so many innocent Pakistani lives in their name. I believe the American people are good people and will want to do something to stop this unjust, counterproductive war that violates all norms of international law and human rights.”

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Shahzad Akbar, centre right, has not been allowed back into the US since he sued the CIA on behalf of Karim Khan, centre left, whose family was killed in a drone strike. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian

A lawyer representing civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan has accused the US government of blocking his appearance at a conference in Washington this month by failing to grant him a visa.

Shahzad Akbar, who founded the Islamabad-based human rights organisation Foundation for Fundamental Rights, says he has failed to secure a visa since he began suing the CIA over the killing of Pakistani civilians by US drones. The case is expected to be heard this month in Islamabad.

Sponsors of the drone summit Killing and Spying by Remote Control, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, Reprieve and the peace group Code Pink, have criticised the failure to grant a visa to Akbar, who they say provides a much-needed voice for the victims of drone strikes in tribal Pakistan.

Speaking from Pakistan by telephone, Akbar said: “Denying a visa to people like me is denying Americans their right to know what the US government and its intelligence community are doing to children, women and other civilians in this part of the world. The CIA, which operated the drones in Pakistan, does not want anyone challenging their killing spree. But the American people should have a right to know.”

He was due to be a key speaker at the Washington conference on 28-29 April. It aims to “inform the American public about the widespread and rapidly expanding deployment of both lethal and surveillance drones, including drone use in the United States” and promised participants the opportunity to listen to the personal stories of Pakistani drone-strike victims, according to its website.

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Shahzad Akbar (Credit: AP/Anjum Naveed)

Murtaza Hussain | Salon

“If the U.S. believes in the rule of law, it should not be hindering advocacy of claims against the CIA for wrongful death and injury.” Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer and co-founder of the Pakistan based legal advocacy organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) has been campaigning for the past several years on behalf of civilians who have been killed and maimed as part of the CIA’s covert drone warfare program in NW Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The drone campaign, which continues to be conducted without oversight and accountability, is documented to have taken a horrendous toll on the civilian population of these regions, the magnitude of which has only come to light through the efforts of grassroots activists such as Akbar.

The London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has documented more than 160 cases of children who have been killed by CIA-operated Predator drones among over 800 confirmed civilian deaths. These are individuals with no connection to militancy whose lives have been ended by a clandestine program under which there is no known reprimand for inflicting civilian casualties. The free hand given to the CIA to kill in Northwest Pakistan has created a culture of near impunity where innocent civilians can be killed wantonly without fear of censure. Among the poorest and most disenfranchised people in Pakistan, those who live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have little to no means of obtaining redress for harm which has been caused to them and lack the ability to even raise awareness of their plight. It is in this light that legal campaigners such as Akbar have taken it upon themselves to bring attention to those killed in the CIA campaign and to win some measure of legal protection for those innocent civilians who continue to be targeted. As Akbar described the conditions of the disenfranchised rural people whom he campaigns for; “People are scared….I’ve interviewed some neighbors whose next-door house was hit, and I could feel what they’re feeling, because they’re feeling this imminent threat. And they are actually feeling helpless at the same time, because they have no other place to relocate, because a lot of them have no skills, no education, so they cannot relocate in any other part of Pakistan.”

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