The US government has apparently made secret payments of $100,000 to the families of two Yemeni men who were mistakenly killed in a covert drone strike, an investigation by international non-profit Reprieve has found.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni man who lost his brother-in-law and nephew in a 2013 drone strike, was offered a bag containing US dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official who had requested the meeting told a family representative that the money came from the US and that he had been asked to pass it along.
Since the deaths of his relatives, Mr. bin Ali Jaber – who is represented by lawyers at Reprieve – has travelled to Washington, DC and met with Congressmen and members of the National Security Council, as well as telling his story to a number of journalists. The Yemeni NSB official reportedly cited this activity as part of the reason the family was offered the $100k payment.
The payment came after Mr. bin Ali Jaber’s family had already gone through a formal compensation process, during which the Yemeni government confirmed in writing that the US carried out the drone strike and that the deaths of their civilian relatives were “a mistake”. During this formal compensation procedure the family also received a payment of 11m Yemeni Rials plus damages.
Despite the private admissions and payments to Mr. bin Ali Jaber and his family, given via the Yemeni security services, the US has never publicly admitted that the strike in which Waleed bin Ali Jaber and Salim bin Ali Jaber were killed was a mistake and that the two men were innocent civilians. The deaths have never been investigated and the US has never apologised to the families.
Waleed bin Ali Jaber was a local policeman and his father was an imam who had preached against al Qaeda in the local mosque just days before he was killed.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber said: “My family received money from the US 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 US drone strikes but do not receive hush money for speaking out. If the US can admit their ‘mistake’ in a back room of the Yemeni security services, they can surely admit it publicly and apologise for what they have done to my family, and many others in Yemen.”
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and attorney for Mr bin Ali Jaber, said: “President Obama is as reluctant as ever to admit the full extent of the US drone program in Yemen – but money talks, even if the White House won’t. Cash payments without full accountability won’t quell the outrage about civilian drone deaths, and continued US strikes will only bring further instability to Yemen. The victims’ families want and deserve an explanation, while the American people need to hear the truth about what is being done in their name.”