Salem, Faisal’s brother-in-law, was an imam who was known for speaking out against al-Qaeda in his sermons, and Waleed, his nephew, was a local policeman who had been protecting him from extremists.
The Friday before he was killed, Salem had given a sermon at the mosque in the village of Khashamir, denouncing al-Qaeda’s ideology. A few days later, some strangers arrived in the village, demanding to speak with him. Salem eventually agreed to meet them, and took Waleed with him. The two men went to meet the strangers near the local mosque, where they had parked their car. The whole group was then hit by a U.S. drone missile, killing all of them. The strike took place on the second day of family wedding celebrations, which Salem and Waleed were attending.
The U.S. has never publicly acknowledged the mistake, nor apologized for the error. By contrast, the families of an American and Italian killed by an American drone received a public apology and an investigation, as well as a large cash payment.
Our family are not your enemy. In fact, the people you killed had strongly and publicly opposed al-Qaeda. Salem was an imam. The Friday before his death, he gave a guest sermon in the Khashamir mosque denouncing al-Qaeda’s hateful ideology. It was not the first of these sermons, but it was his last.
– Faisal bin Ali Jaber
Since 2013, Reprieve lawyers have been helping Faisal to seek justice for the killing of his family. He is not looking for financial compensation. He simply wants an apology from the U.S. Government.
In 2013, we took Faisal to Washington, D.C. where he met with members of Congress and members of the National Security Council, and told his story to a number of journalists. In July 2014, one of Faisal’s relatives was offered a bag containing $100,000 in U.S. dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official told a family representative that the money was from the U.S. and that he had been asked to pass it along.
The payment came after the Yemeni government confirmed in writing that the U.S. carried out the drone strike, and that the deaths of Faisal’s relatives were “a mistake.” The U.S. has never publicly admitted that the strike that killed Waleed and Salem was a mistake. The killings have never been investigated and the U.S. has never apologized to Faisal and the rest of his family.
My family received money from the U.S. government as an admission of their guilt for ‘mistakenly’ killing our relatives in a drone strike. But this is not justice. There are many other families in Yemen who have lost innocent relatives in U.S. drone strikes but do not receive hush money for speaking out.
– Faisal bin Ali Jaber
In 2015, we launched the first civilian claims against the U.S. Government for its use of drones in non-combat area – Jaber v. Obama. The result was disappointing – in February 2016 the court granted the U.S. Government’s motion to dismiss Faisal’s case. Undeterred by this, we filed an appeal in Faisal’s federal lawsuit against the Obama administration, challenging the DC Court’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit.
In June 2017, the DC Court of Appeals decided unanimously that the court cannot decide whether strikes are legal, as this would require them to adjudicate on ‘political questions.’ However, Judge Janice Rogers Brown delivered a strong rebuke to the U.S.’s secret drone program, proclaiming U.S. democracy “broken” and that Congressional oversight over the drone program is “a joke – and a bad one at that.”
We have now decided to bring this fight to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the era of Trump, it is more important than ever that the executive power to target and kill potentially innocent civilians be critically examined, and that the courts be called upon to keep this in check.
Read Faisal’s take on the recently released drone casualty figures:
Faisal in the Press:
- Secret cash in bag compensation payments exposed by Reprieve. This spurred an admission by the Yemeni source that indeed the US funds compensation payments
- The New York Times on Faisal’s trip to the U.S., organized by Reprieve
- Faisal files a lawsuit requesting that the D.C. District Court issue a declaration that the strike that killed Salem and Waleed was unlawful
- Faisal’s piece for CNN
- Detailed description of Faisal’s court hearing
- More background on the hearing from ABC News
- Watch the WUSA9 report on the hearing and read the article