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Forensic Architecture Research Team:
Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator); Susan Schuppli (Senior Research Fellow, Project Coordinator); Jacob Burns (Research Assistant); Steffen Kraemer (Researcher, Film Editor); Reiner Beelitz (Architectural Modelling); Francesco Sebregondi (Researcher); and Chris Cobb-Smith (Research Advisor)
SITU Research Team:
McKenna Cole; Akshay Mehra; Charles-Antoine Perrault; Bradley Samuels; and Xiaowei Wang
Amal Alamuddin, Philippa Webb, Annie O’Reilly, Jessica Dorsey, Sajid Suleman, Anna Bonini, Dawood Ahmed, Krista Nelson, Kristen Johnson and Matthew Oresman and all of their team at Patton Boggs, LLP, Peter Vedel Kessing, Michelle Lesh, Alon Margalit, Siavash Rahbari, Jessica Corsi, Lisa Hajjar, Eliav Lieblich, Mike Canada, Joshua Andresen, Ulrike Franke, Misa Zgonec-Rozej, John Jones QC, Todd Pierce and Colleen Rowley, Iain Morley, QC, Jasmine Zerinini, Pippa Woodrow, Ella Batchelor, Rehana Popal, Nathan Rasiah, James Edenborough, Sarika Arya, Alinda Vermeer, Bridget Prince, Chris Woods, Benedicte Diot, Johanna Hortolani, Blinne Ni Ghralaigh
The first RPA strike reported in Yemen occurred on 3 November 2002 in an operation aimed at killing a suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole in February 2000. It was nine years before the next confirmed RPA strike took place, on 5 May 2011, in a failed attempt to kill US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.1 By the end of 2011 the United States was reported to have conducted 29 strikes in Yemen by means of RPA, although the Special Rapporteur has not yet been able to confirm this figure. In 2012 US RPA and other airstrikes intensified as the US supported actions by Yemeni ground forces to dislodge militants from their positions in the South of Yemen. In summer 2013, the US launched a series of RPA strikes following reported terrorist threats to US interests.
Many of the confirmed RPA strikes in Yemen appear to have been directed at vehicles moving between conurbations, in an apparent effort to minimise civilian loss of life. In general, and with the notable exception of a cruise missile strike on a tented camp in Al Majalah in 2009, in which more than 40 civilians were reported to have been killed, the US appears to have succeeded in avoiding the infliction of large scale loss of civilian life in Yemen. Nonetheless there have been a number of incidents in which civilians have reportedly been killed or injured. The highest media monitoring estimates suggest that the total number of civilians to have been killed or injured as the result of confirmed RPA strikes since 2011 is between 21 and 58 (out of a total of between 268 and 393 fatalities). The most serious single incident so far was an RPA attack on 2 September 2012 in which 12 civilians were reportedly killed in the vicinity of Rada'a.
There were a significant number of reported civilian casualties in the final weeks of 2013.2 Recent estimates provided by Human Rights Watch allege that since 2009 the United States has conducted at least 86 lethal counter-terrorism operations, using remotely piloted aircraft and other means, killing up to 500 people.3 The majority of those killed are believed to have been individuals with a “continuous combat function” in Yemen's internal armed conflicts, and therefore to have been legitimate military targets under the principles of international humanitarian law. However, media monitoring organisations allege that between 24 and 71 civilians have been killed in confirmed drone strikes during this period.4 During the Universal Periodic Review of Yemen in January 2014 the Government delegation informed the Working Group that the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen had “demanded” the cessation of the use of armed drones.5 The Working Group was also informed of a non-binding resolution passed by the Yemeni House of Representatives on 14 December 2013 calling for a ban on the use of armed drones in Yemen, and insisting that measures to fight against terrorism “should not harm civilians and should be based on human rights standards”.6 The Government of Yemen has informed the Special Rapporteur that the United States routinely seeks prior consent, on a case-by-case basis, for lethal remotely piloted aircraft operations on its territory through recognized channels, and that where consent is withheld, a strike will not go ahead. However, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, President Hadi told the organisation during a meeting on 28 January 2014 that specific drone strikes are not pre-approved, but instead such strikes are “generally permitted” pursuant to an agreement concluded between the United States and former President Abdullah Saleh, which remains binding.7 The Special Rapporteur invites the Government of Yemen to clarify its position in this regard. Finally, the Special Rapporteur thanks the Government of Yemen for agreeing in principle to receive a country visit from the mandate. Initially the visit was postponed at the Government's request pending the conclusion of the National Dialogue. Since that time, logistical and other concerns have prevented the planned visit from taking place. The Special Rapporteur takes this opportunity to affirm his commitment to visiting Yemen when logistics permit this.
1 A number of US airstrikes involving non-RPA platforms and missile attacks are reported to have taken place in Yemen from December 2009 onwards.
3 Drone Strikes in Yemen, Bureau of Investigative Journalism
4 Yemen Drone Strike May Violate Obama Policy, Human Rights Watch, February 2013
5 Drone Strikes in Yemen, Bureau of Investigative Journalism
6 Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review
7 Drone Strikes Must End, Yemen’s Parliament Says, CNN.com, December 15, 2013
8 Yemen Drone Strike May Violate Obama Policy, Human Rights Watch, February 2013