A suspected U.S. drone strike that killed 16 civilians attending a wedding in Yemen violates humanitarian law and must be accounted for, declared UN experts on Thursday.
“A deadly attack on illegitimate targets amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment if, as in this case, it results in serious physical or mental pain and suffering for the innocent victims,” said Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez, according to a UN statement.
“If armed drones are to be used, States must adhere to international humanitarian law, and should disclose the legal basis for their operational responsibility and criteria for targeting,” said Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “Yemen cannot consent to violations of the right to life of people in its territory."
Local security officials report that 16 civilians were killed and over 10 injured when drone missiles struck two wedding processions on December 12.
Despite this mass civilian death, confirmed in numerous media reports, the U.S. government has so far refused to disclose information on the legality, targets, and victims of these strikes.
The Obama administration has been famously secretive about the covert drone wars of the United States while claiming that their civilian death count is low, despite reports from Bureau of Investigative Journalism researchers who have documented high numbers of civilian deaths in Pakistan and Yemen.
As Tom Engelhardt recently pointed out, while much media reported that the wedding was an "unlikely target" that was struck mistakenly, there is in fact nothing unlikely or unique about this wedding tragedy.
According to "the count of TomDispatch, this is at least the eighth wedding party reported wiped out, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began and it extends the extermination of wedding celebrants from the air to a third country — six destroyed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and now the first in Yemen," writes Engelhardt. "And in all those years, reporters covering these “incidents” never seem to notice that similar events had occurred previously."
He adds, "The only thing that made the Yemeni incident unique was the drone. The previous strikes were reportedly by piloted aircraft."