The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Thursday condemned [press release] an airstrike launched by unmanned aerial vehicle that struck a civilian home killing 15 and injuring 13, including one child. The airstrike, apparently targeting Islamic State (IS) militants, was conducted during the early morning hours of Thursday in the eastern district of Achin where civilians had gathered in a village to celebrate the return of a tribal leader from the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. US Force-Afghanistan has thus far admitted conducting the airstrike and stated that they are in the process of investigating the incident internally before elaborating further. Expressing condolences to the families of those killed, UNAMA reiterated the need for all parties involved in the conflict to comply with international humanitarian law. UNAMA called on the government and international military forces to launch “a prompt, independent, impartial, transparent, and effective investigation into this incident.”
The use of drones [JURIST backgrounder] is controversial in both the international arena and in domestic circles. In January the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the president’s National Security Council (NSC) [official website] is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [official website]. In November the Second Circuit ruled that the US government may keep secret memoranda [JURIST report] related to the legal justification for the use of drones for targeted killings of those in other countries believed to be involved in terrorism. The case was the result of FOIA requests by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] and the New York Times [media website] for documents prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel of the US Department of Justice [official website] regarding the drone strikes. In June 2015 the families of two Yemeni men killed by US drone strikes filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the government, claiming they were wrongfully killed. In December 2010 a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging the Obama administration’s ability to conduct targeted killings [JURIST backgrounder], a challenge spurred because one subject of a targeted killing, al-Awlaki-Khan, was a dual US-Yemeni citizen.