Take Action for Human Rights

Tell the US Government: Stop Killing Civilians


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 the process it is killing thousands of civilians, usually without explanation or an 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 an armed conflict may only kill members of enemy armed forces. If it’s not clear whether certain individuals are members of the enemy armed force, 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 these international laws. 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.

Take Action Now: Ask the U.S. Government to investigate claims of civilian casualties and stop attacking civilians.

Secretary Austin
Department of Defense