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Obama Administration Insists Drone Killing 'Lawful', While Fighting Legal Scrutiny

The Obama Administration will today (Dec 6) publicly insist upon the lawfulness of the US drone killing program, even as it ramps up its federal court fight to avoid legal accountability. December 13th will see a hearing in DC in a landmark case brought by a Yemeni victim of the US drone program.

Expanding upon a report released yesterday by the White House, President Obama will today give a speech in which he describes the legal justification for detaining and killing people in the course of the 'War on Terror'. The White House report also cites the President's Executive Order on civilian casualties, which requires civilian deaths in US drone strikes to be investigated and acknowledged. 

However, in Jaber v Obama, which is due to be heard on appeal in Washington DC on December 13th, the Obama Administration is refusing to either admit responsibility or apologize to a Yemeni man who lost two innocent civilian relatives in a drone strike.  

Faisal bin ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sanaa, is suing for an apology and explanation for the killing of his his brother-in-law Salem and his nephew Waleed in a US drone strike in August 2012. He has repeatedly requested transparency, and in November 2013 travelled 7,000 miles to Washington DC to meet two White House national security officials.

The Obama Administration has never admitted to the strike, nor apologized to Faisal’s family. 

By contrast, in April 2015, the President publicly apologized for a January 2015 strike that killed an American citizen, Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto.

Shelby Sullivan Bennis, Reprieve attorney for Faisal bin ali Jaber, said: "If President Obama truly believes that drone killing should be lawful and transparent, why is his Administration fighting tooth and nail  to avoid the scrutiny of American judges in Jaber v. Obama? Why won't the President simply come clean and apologize to Faisal bin Ali Jaber for the killing of his innocent family members? If the President is serious about encouraging accountability in future Administrations, he must put his words into action in DC federal court on December 13."

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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