“Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda”: the civilian cost of US targeted killings in Yemen, Human Rights Watch, October 2013, pp. 105 (ISBN 978-1-62313-0701)

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that an estimated 80 assassinations or ‘targeted killings’ of alleged terrorists have been carried out by the US in Yemen since 2009, and that these attacks have killed several hundred people.

The covert operations are not acknowledged by the US military or political authorities and casualties, including civilian deaths, are either ignored or denied. Most of the strikes involve unmanned aerial vehicles and this report investigates six attacks that took place between 2009 and 2013.

It finds that two of them “killed civilians in clear violation of the laws of war.” In the remainder, “factual questions about whether those attacked were valid military targets, and whether civilian casualties were disproportionate, raise concerns about the attacks’ legality.”

The analysis finds that the six attacks “did not meet US policy guidelines for targeted killings” as expressed by President Obama in May 2013. HRW “calls on the USA to provide its full legal rationale for targeted killings and ensure these strikes comply with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

The report concludes: “The US should impartially investigate potentially unlawful attacks and hold those responsible to account. It should appropriately compensate wrongful - if not all - civilian losses.” Available as a free download here.

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