Survivors of American drone strikes in the Middle East have tried to seek apologies, compensation, or legal redress in the past with limited success. The family of a Pakistani taxi driver filed a criminal case against Washington with the local authorities, for instance, and some civilian strike victims have been given condolence payments.
On Tuesday, however, a surviving relative of two men killed by an American drone in Yemen was granted a hearing in a Washington, D.C., circuit court — the first time an American court has heard a drone strike victim's complaint. Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni engineer, is attempting to bring a wrongful death case on behalf of his nephew, a police officer, and his brother-in-law, an imam who vocally opposed terrorism, who were both killed by U.S. bombs in 2012.
Ali Jaber is suing for an apology and explanation of his family members' death, not monetary compensation. His suit was denied once before. While the Obama administration, which dramatically escalated the drone strike program begun by former President George W. Bush, has long maintained utmost care is taken to prevent civilian casualties, an amicus brief filed by three former drone operators on Ali Jaber's behalf disagrees. "Far from the grave consideration the executive branch purports to give each strike," it says, the operators "witnessed a culture that often encouraged and celebrated strikes."