The US is committing clear violations of the laws of war in Yemen, says Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“When I arrived, I saw the car upside down and burning. My father and mother were totally burned. Nothing was left but their skeletons. I put my head in my hands and cried,” says Ahmad al-Sabooli, who lost his family in a US drone attack in Yemen.
Another Yemeni, who lost relatives in an attack on 2 September 2012, Nawaf Awadh, told HRW that “although we know our women and children very well, when we arrived we couldn’t recognize any of them. There were 12 dead bodies and we couldn’t distinguish one from the other. They were totally charred.”
The human rights group said that this was a clear attack on the laws of war, indiscriminately killing 12 civilians.
“The US has launched about 80 targeted killing operations in Yemen since 2009. The most deadly of these strikes were in Al-Majalah. US cruise missiles dropped cluster bombs on a Bedouin camp,” says Letta Tayler, Senior Researcher at HRW.
Witnesses say the entire area was destroyed, including furniture and livestock. The attack killed 14 suspected militants, but also 41 civilians – most of them women and children, according to HRW.
“Despite having drones and spy planes and all of this technology, can’t America differentiate between a terrorist and an innocent civilian?” asks Moqbil Muhammad Ali, who lost 28 relatives in the attack.
US President Barack Obama has said that “before any strike is taken there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured. The highest standard we can set.”
However, according to HRW, out of six US drone strikes that they have examined at least two were clear violations of the laws of war. They give one exapmle of a taxi driver named Salim who was killed along with his cousin who was a teacher when they picked up two strangers who turned out to be alleged militants.
“These two, according to the interior ministry of Yemen, had absolutely no links to terrorism,” says Letta Tayler.
“President Obama should acknowledge these strikes, and the US should ensure that it is following the law and President Obama’s policies on targeted killings so that civilians are not unnecessarily killed in theses strikes.”