Take Action for Human Rights



The U.S. Government claims it’s keeping Americans safe by using drones, air strikes and Special Forces operations to kill people it calls “militants” or “terrorists” around the world. But in reality, it has killed thousands of civilians, usually without explanation or any effort to compensate survivors or their families for their devastating losses.

The U.S. Government claims to investigate civilian killings caused by its military actions, but it also seems to assume that the people killed are “militants” or “terrorists” when they are actually civilians.

Under international law, the U.S. Government in a recognized armed conflict may only kill members of the armed forces of a party to the conflict. If it’s not clear whether certain individuals are combatants, then the government must presume they are civilians. And outside of an armed conflict zone, everyone is a civilian: the government can only kill individuals who pose an imminent threat to human life.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Government does not acknowledge the applicability of international human rights law to its actions abroad. It has also refused to disclose how it is interpreting international law as it relates to its use of lethal force. And it has refused to explain how it decides someone is a “militant” or “terrorist” that the U.S. can kill.

What is clear, however, is that the US has killed thousands of civilians in recent years, with little explanation and no accountability. Those victims continue to suffer today, without acknowledgement or reparation from the U.S. government.

Take Action Now: Tell the U.S. Government to meaningfully investigate claims of civilian casualties, and to help civilians who have been harmed.

Secretary Austin
Department of Defense