A Yemeni civilian who lost two innocent relatives to a 2012 covert drone strike has written to President Obama to ask for an apology – in return for which he will drop a court case, due to be heard in Washington DC tomorrow.
Faisal bin ali Jaber lost his brother in law – a preacher who campaigned against Al Qaeda – and his nephew, a local policeman, in an August 29, 2012 strike on the village of Kashamir in Yemen.
Mr Jaber – an environmental engineer – will tomorrow (Tuesday) travel to Washington DC to attend what will be the first ever US appellate court hearing in a case brought by a civilian victim of the covert drone program.
However, Mr Jaber has written to the President to inform him that he will “happily drop the case in exchange for an apology,” and acknowledgment that his brother in law Salem and nephew Waleed “were innocents, not terrorists.”
Mr Jaber met members of Congress and Obama Administration officials in 2013, but did not receive either an explanation or apology for the strike which killed his relatives. In 2014, his family was offered $100,000 in US dollar bills in a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB) – during which the Yemeni Government official informed them that the money came from the US and he had been asked to pass it along. Again, there was no acknowledgement or apology from the US.
In his letter sent this weekend to the President, Mr Jaber points out that “true accountability comes from owning up to our mistakes.” He asks Mr Obama to set a precedent for his successors by acknowledging the error that killed his relatives, apologizing, and disclosing details of the operation that killed them so that lessons can be learned. Mr Jaber also requests that before leaving office, President Obama release more detailed information on civilian casualties from drone strikes, including the names of who was counted and who was not.
Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at international human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Jaber said:
“President Obama is right to be worried about what a Trump Administration might do with his secret drone program. But if he is serious about bringing it out of the shadows, he must stop fighting against accountability. He must own up to the hundreds of civilians that even the most conservative estimates say the program has killed, and apologize to those that have lost their loved ones.
“Faisal’s relatives took great risks speaking out against Al Qaeda, and trying to keep their community safe. Yet they were killed by an out of control drone program which made appalling errors and did more harm than good. Instead of fighting Faisal in court, President Obama should simply apologize, admit his mistake, and devote the rest of his time in office to building true accountability into a program hidden in the shadows for too long.”