Survivors of three Americans killed by targeted drone attacks in Yemen last year sued top-ranking members of the United States government, alleging Wednesday they illegally killed the three, including a 16-year-old boy, in violation of international human rights law and the U.S. Constitution.
“The government has killed three Americans. It should account for its actions. This case gives us an opportunity to do that,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a press call.
The suit, (.pdf) is being litigated by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU. It seeks unspecified damages and highlights the government’s so-called unmanned “targeted killing” program. The ACLU and the Center maintain the drone attacks have killed thousands, including hundreds of innocent bystanders overseas. (Other estimates of the campaign come to widely different conclusions.)
The suit, the first of its kind, alleges the United States was not engaged in an armed conflict with or within Yemen, prohibiting the use of lethal force unless “at the time it is applied, lethal force is a last resort to protect against a concrete, specific, and imminent threat of death or serious physical injury.” The case directly challenges the government’s decision to kill Americans without judicial scrutiny.
At bottom, Jaffer said, “the question is whether the government is justified in killing without charging them or trying them for anything.”