The Yemeni government has paid compensation to civilian victims of a 2013 drone strike that hit a wedding convoy and which US Government sources have claimed killed only ‘militants.’
The international human rights NGO Reprieve has obtained documents promising compensation for all 12 people killed and all 24 injured in the December 2013 strike. The Yemeni government has stated that it does not make compensation payments to those it believes were militants or the families of militants. Based on the documentation, Reprieve estimates that close to US$ 1.24 million has been promised.
Such compensation payments made by the Yemeni government – which in 2013 received $256 million in aid from the United States government – directly contradict claims by anonymous Obama administration sources that those killed were militants. They have also raised questions over whether the US is secretly funding compensation payments to civilian drone strike victims.
In July 2013 the Department of Defense acknowledged that they had documents relating to ‘solatia’ (compensation for US military wrongdoing) payments in Yemen but refused to release them under Freedom of Information Act requests, citing ‘national security’.
In April 2014, ABC News reported on Yemeni government plans to compensate victims of a drone strike on Easter weekend of this year, in which civilians were killed. When asked by ABC, the US government declined to comment on whether or not they were providing funds for compensation payments which the Yemeni government confirmed were being made.
Kat Craig, Legal Director of Reprieve, said: “These documents demolish the claims – made by anonymous US Government sources – that the victims of this drone attack were anything other than civilians. We now know that hundreds of thousands of dollars are having to be paid out to innocent victims of the US’ misguided, secretive drone programme. President Obama needs to come clean on where this money is coming from: either American taxpayers are footing the bill for his counterproductive policies, or it is falling on the shoulders of one of the world’s poorest governments.”