Two Yemeni families who lost dozens of relatives to U.S. drone strikes and a botched special operations forces raid during the Obama and Trump administrations filed a petition this week against the United States government, accusing it of “unlawful” killing.
Agence France-Presse reports the international legal advocacy organization Reprieve filed the petition Monday through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, on behalf of the Al-Ameri and Al-Taisy families.
The petition states that “seven attacks at issue have resulted in the unlawful killing of at least 48 people, including 17 children, and in the serious injury of at least seven others, as well as the destruction of their personal property and livelihoods.”
Thirty-four of those killed were members of the two families. Vice reports the Al-Ameris and Al-Taisys had come together on December 12, 2013 in al Baydah province to celebrate the marriage of Abdullah Mabkhout Al-Ameri and his wife Wardah Al-Taisy. The families were traveling in a traditional wedding procession from the bride’s home when a U.S. unmanned aerial drone launched four missiles at them, killing 12 people.
That was just the beginning. Over the following five years, the families were attacked six more times by U.S. drones. The year 2017 was especially deadly, as 22 members of the families were killed in airstrikes and a ground attack.
The ground raid, which occurred in the village of Al-Ghayil in the Yakla area on January 29, 2017 and involved U.S. Navy SEALs—one of whom was killed—claimed the lives of as many as 30 civilians, including 15 members of the Al-Ameri and Al-Taisy families.
The U.K.-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported nine children killed during the Yakla raid. Among these was Nawar al-Awlaki, an 8-year-old U.S. citizen who, according to her grandfather, “was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours.”
Nawar was the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American cleric who was assassinated by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011, and the half-brother of Colorado native Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who at age 16 was killed—along with his 17-year-old cousin and several others while dining at an outdoor restaurant in Yemen—by a drone strike ordered by then-President Barack Obama.
When pressed about why Obama had ordered an attack that killed an innocent American teenager, Robert Gibbs, the president’s press secretary, said the child should “have [had] a far more responsible father.”
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the U.S. has carried out at least 336 drone strikes in Yemen between 2004 and 2020. The strikes, which span three presidential administrations, have killed as many as 1,389 people, including up to 225 civilians—among them 44 to 50 children.
Drone strikes in Yemen began during the George W. Bush administration and sharply escalated under Obama. Former President Donald Trump vowed to “bomb the shit out of” militants and “take out their families” and followed through on his promise, dramatically increasing strikes and casualties not only in Yemen but in nearly all of the half-dozen Muslim nations under attack by the U.S. during the so-called War on Terror.
The incessant threat of death from above has terrorized civilians from eastern Africa to Pakistan.
“It’s a life with constant fear,” Mohammed Ali Mabkhout Al-Ameri, a survivor of four of the attacks listed in the Reprieve petition, told Vice.
“You always feel tense,” he added. “If you go out in your vehicle, you’re afraid. If you walk out individually, you’re always afraid to leave the village because you think you might be mistaken and targeted.”
The petitioning families are seeking “precautionary measures”—something like an injunction against assassination—and an explanation from the U.S.
Jennifer Gibson, a human rights attorney and project lead on extrajudicial killing at Reprieve, told AFP that “what the families are hoping for from the Commission is first and foremost recognition of the harm that’s been done to them.”
Gibson told Vice that the families are “searching for answers, and they’ve been blocked from getting any sort of answer from the U.S. government.”
“So they’re now going to the Inter-American Commission, hoping to get from them the answers and the relief that they have not been able to get from the U.S. government or from the U.S. courts,” she said.
“The families are trying in every way they can to almost literally raise their hand and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. You’re hitting the wrong people here. Please stop hitting us and let us put forward the evidence that we’re not whoever you think we are,'” added Gibson.
The U.S. attacks on Yemen came amid a much wider war waged by a U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition against Houthi rebels and radical militants that has killed more than 100,000 people, thousands of them in airstrikes. Many of the coalition’s weapons, including the bombs and the planes that drop them, are made in and sold by the United States.
Earlier this week, the Biden administration temporarily halted the sale to Saudi Arabia of nearly half a billion dollars worth of so-called “precision” bombs manufactured by Raytheon Technologies, as well as of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates.
The bombing of Yemen, along with a Saudi-led economic blockade that has exacerbated famine conditions that have killed tens of thousand of Yemenis, has created what the United Nations and others have called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Abdullah Abdurabuh Obad Al-Taisy told Vice he hopes the change in administrations in Washington, D.C. will bring some justice to victims of U.S. attacks.
“We’re hoping because there is a new administration in the White House they will look into things differently,” he said. “We want them to know that we are innocent. We want them to consider fair reparations for our families and children. All that we ask is a transparent investigation.”