By Sam Knight, District Sentinel
Lawyers for Yemeni men suing the US government, for killing two relatives in drone strikes, made their case on Tuesday before federal appellate judges.
Arguing at the DC Circuit in Washington, the attorneys said that a lower court erred in March, when it concluded courts shouldn’t “second-guess the Executive’s policy determination.” District Judge Ellen Huvelle threw out the lawsuit in February.
“Plaintiffs are not challenging the prudence of drone strikes or attacking Al-Qaeda,” a brief filed by lawyers in support of the case stated. “Plaintiffs assert that these were extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians undertaken in knowing violation of law.”
Attorneys for one of the two Yemeni plaintiffs noted Tuesday that his client is not seeking any monetary redress–merely “an apology and an explanation of why his relatives were killed,” as Courthouse News reported.
“This is a really important action for this court,” lawyer Jeffrey Robinson said in oral proceedings.
The case surrounds an August 2012 strike that killed Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber. Waleed was a traffic cop, who also acted as a body guard to Salem; a preacher with a post-graduate degree.
The latter “sought to teach children a moderate and tolerant Islam, and to counter extremist ideology that violent groups like al Qaeda espouse,” the initial lawsuitclaimed.
When the two men were assassinated by an American airstrike, they were “with three youths who had driven into the village earlier in the day and had asked to meet with Salem.”
“These three young men were the apparent targets of the drone strike,” lawyers for the relatives of Salem and Waleed alleged.
“It is far from clear that even those three were valid or sensible targets,” the attorneys also noted. “Post-strike photographs, though grisly, suggest that at least one of the men was very young.
President Obama has consistently defended his drone regime–also known as the targeted killings program–as a lawful, surgical way of neutralizing terrorist threats.
The administration’s outward confidence in the regime is such that it sees no reason to tighten assassination guidelines before handing over the “kill list” to President-elect Donald Trump–a man routinely described during the presidential campaign by Obama as dangerously unqualified to lead the country.
Outside of the federal appellate courthouse in Washington on Tuesday, one of Salem’s brothers said that American drone operations in Yemen had been reckless and counterproductive.
Speaking through an interpreter, Faisal bin Ali Jaber said people in his part of Yemen “do not know anything about the [US] but the drones.”
According to Courthouse News, he noted that Al-Qaida increased its reach in Yemen in 2015, almost a half-decade after Obama stepped up drone operations to target Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
The US, Faisal said, “can invest there in other ways that can actually promote other ideology among the people over there.”
“These drones are actually really helping Al-Qaida attract people because they are saying, ‘look – the [United] States are killing you,” he added. “Come join us so we can kill them.’”