Faisal bin ali Jaber is an environmental engineer from Yemen. In 2012, his innocent brother-in-law and nephew were killed in a US drone strike.
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 US has never publicly acknowledged the mistake or 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. Since 2013, Reprieve lawyers have been helping Faisal to seek justice.
Faisal’s brother-in-law and nephew are killed in a US drone strike during a family wedding weekend in his home village. Salem, his brother-in-law, was an imam who was known for speaking out against al-Qaeda in his sermons, and Waleed, his nephew, was 26 years old and a local policeman.
Faisal’s family goes through a formal Yemeni condolence process, during which the Yemeni government confirms in writing that the US carried out the drone strike and that the deaths of their civilian relatives were “a mistake”.
Reprieve accompanies Faisal to Washington D.C. where he meets with members of Congress and members of the National Security Council, and tells his story to journalists. He found himself on the front page of the New York Times.
One of Faisal’s relatives is offered a bag containing $100,000 in US 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 US and that he had been asked to pass it along.
Reprieve helps Faisal take legal action in the German administrative courts. We had discovered that German military bases were being used to facilitate drone strikes in Yemen – including the strike that killed Faisal’s relatives. The claim, filed by Reprieve and our German partner, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), seeks measures by the German administration to stop the use of German territory for illegal actions by the US in Yemen. More info on the filing.
President Obama apologizes for the drone killing of an American and an Italian citizen held in Pakistan – Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto – and announced an independent inquiry into their killings. Faisal’s family has still had no acknowledgement of Salem and Waleed’s deaths.
Reprieve and other human rights groups urge the President to acknowledge other civilian deaths.
Leaked intelligence – reported in The Intercept – indicates that US officials knew they had killed civilians shortly after the strike which killed Faisal’s family.
The Administrative Court of Cologne rules against Faisal, but the judge gives immediate leave to appeal – a rare move.
The German Federal Prosecutor’s office – Germany’s highest prosecuting office – launches a “monitoring process”, which will investigate possible violations of international law involving Ramstein, a US airbase in Germany.
Faisal files a lawsuit against the US Government in his ongoing quest for an official apology. The lawsuit requests that the D.C. District Court issue a declaration that the strike that killed Salem and Waleed was unlawful. It does not ask for monetary compensation
Faisal appeals to a German court to ensure that Ramstein Air Base is not used for further attacks, which might endanger his family’s life. The appeal, filed at the Higher Administrative Court in Münster, asks the German government to end the country’s complicity in the extrajudicial killings.
Faisal offers to drop his US case in exchange for an official apology and a promise to investigate the circumstances that led to the strike. The Government rejects Faisal’s offer.
The US government moves to dismiss Faisal’s federal lawsuit on the basis that he has no legal ‘standing’ to bring a case against them.
Faisal responds to Michael V. Hayden’s article in the New York Times, which claimed to make the Case For Drones, with a letter to the editor: “The drones have ripped our communities apart. They have spread hatred and fanned extremism.”
Faisal files a federal FOIA lawsuit in Washington DC under the Freedom of Information Act, demanding information about the strike that took his family’s lives
Faisal files an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the Obama Administration, challenging the DC court’s decision, to dismiss his 2015 lawsuit that aimed to determine whether the drone strikes that killed his family on Aug. 29, 2012, were unlawful.
Reprieve writes to the President asking him to meet with Faisal during Faisal’s trip to New York to speak at the Whitney Museum, where the strike on his family is featured in Laura Poitras’ installation Astro Noise. The President does not reply.
The appeal in Jaber v Obama comes as Obama officials issue fresh denials of discounting foreign lives, telling the Guardian “it is certainly not the case that lives of a certain nationality are more valuable to us than those of any other”
The drone death figures show the US “simply doesn’t know who it has killed”.
The Obama Administration releases its drone guidelines in the targeted killing “playbook”whilst still failing to acknowledge civilian deaths.
The US Government seeks international agreements on “applicability of international law” and human rights when using armed drones. The draft agreements do not appear to acknowledge the long-running, secretive US use of armed drones in countries such as Yemen, where it is not at war.
Faisal files a DC federal court appeal in his ongoing quest for an official apology, jointly represented by Reprieve and Lewis Baach pllc. Former US drone operators and legal experts file amicus briefs in support. The ex drone operators’ brief is here; Prof Mary Ellen O’Connell’s brief on international law is here.
Faisal receives support from three military veterans once involved in the U.S. drone program, who publicly endorse his lawsuit.
In a report on his use of force, President Obama insisted that US drone killing was lawful, and reaffirmed his Executive Order commitment to acknowledge and investigate civilian deaths by US drones.
Yet in arguments submitted ahead of Faisal’s appeal hearing, his Administration argued (here and here) that the US courts have no business deciding whether strikes are legal — even where war crimes have been committed – and that Faisal has no business bringing a case in the US courts.
On the eve of his court hearing, Faisal wrote again to President Obama offering to drop the case in exchange for an acknowledgement and apology.
Faisal attended a hearing in DC federal court on December 13 2016: this was the first time a drones victim has been granted a US court hearing. Download the submissions:
Download pictures of Faisal bin ali Jaber:
Download photos of Salem and Waleed bin ali Jaber: