[JURIST] The families of two Yemeni men who were killed by US drone strikes filed a lawsuit [complaint] Sunday against the US claiming that the men, Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber, were “innocent bystanders” who were wrongfully killed. The lawsuit, which seeks no monetary relief, states that the men were not “likely targets of the strike that killed them,” as both men spent their lives preaching against al Qaeda and terrorism. The lawsuit further alleges that the killings were in violation of the Torture Victim Prevention Act’s ban on extrajudicial killings [text, PDF] and that the government knew within hours that a mistake had been made. The lawsuit specifically names President Barack Obama, former defense secretary, Leon Panetta former CIA director David Petraeus [official profiles] and three unknown defendants.
This is not the first time that the US has been involved in a lawsuit concerning drone strikes in Yemen. In 2010 al-Awlaki Khan [JURIST news archive], a dual US-Yemeni citizen, had been approved for targeted killing [JURIST backgrounder] by the Obama administration, an action that was challenged based on Awlaki’s US citizenship. Earlier in 2014 a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed a lawsuit [opinion, PDF] brought against officials of the Obama administration for the 2011 drone strikes that killed three US citizens in Yemen. In December 2010 a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST reports] challenging the Obama administration’s ability to conduct “targeted killings” in al-Awlaki’s case. Judge John Bates found that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case, filed by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Awlaki’s father, dismissing it on procedural grounds and noting that important questions remain. Bates heard arguments [JURIST report] in the case in November 2010 on the same day Awlaki called for jihadist attacks on US citizens in a video posted on extremist websites. Earlier that month Yemeni prosecutors charged [JURIST report] Awlaki with incitement to kill foreigners, and he was later sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.