Yemeni drone strike victims seek end of strikes and redress in historic case against the USA

Kirsty Brimelow QCProfessor Kevin Jon HellerJelia Sane and Tayyiba Bajwa of Doughty Street International, instructed by Jennifer Gibson of Reprieve, act for two Yemeni families, the  Al Ameris and Al Taysis, in the first ever challenge to the legality of US targeted killing operations before a regional human rights treaty monitoring body.

The Al Ameri and Al Taysi families are part of a group of civilians who have been attacked by drone strikes seven times over seven years. This has resulted in at least 48 civilian deaths. Those killed include at least 17 children, with 34 of the dead being members the two families. They have been denied access to justice for many years. The petition has been filed before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the US government. 

Judicial inquiry into executive decision-making regarding the use of drones is currently procedurally barred under the U.S legal framework; this petition therefore represents the first opportunity for the community to seek justice for the actions that have resulted in the death of their loved ones. The petition is accompanied by an application for precautionary measures that the US immediately adopt the necessary safeguards to protect the right to life and to personal integrity of the surviving members of the Al Ameri and Al Taisy families, their next of kin and the civilian population in the surrounding areas.  The families remain in fear for their lives; at the time of the filing of the Petition, drones continue to be present in their local area and may strike at any moment.  


Working with Reprieve, who have provided legal support to the families since 2013, Doughty Street counsel have filed a petition before the Commission, arguing that these strikes, which form part of a  state-sanctioned extra-judicial killing programme, were unlawful under international human rights and humanitarian law.

In particular, the petition alleges that the US is responsible for violations of the right to life and that it used lethal force with reckless disregard for civilian life, including the lives of children who died in these attacks.

It is further alleged that the US is responsible for violations of the right to personal integrity in relation to the strike survivors who sustained serious physical injuries and psychological harm and the next of kin, many of whom witnessed their loves ones being executed. The petition also relied on testimony and objective evidence showing that the constant hovering of drones has caused significant psychological trauma to surviving members of this community. They live in constant fear that they too may be arbitrarily deprived of their lives.

The most affected demographic are the children, who are already growing up in the atmosphere of adults’ grief and anxiety, and who exhibit signs of PTSD and other psychological disorders as a result of the enduring threat of future drone attacks. To protect themselves against the risk of being targeted, many families also have been displaced; fleeing from their homes to take refuge outside of their village. 

The US has failed to investigate, prosecute and punish its agents responsible for these violations, contrary to its obligations under international human rights law. The surviving victims and their next of kin have received no form of apology, recognition or redress for the harm suffered. This flagrant denial of justice has only served to intensify their feelings of grief, impotence and powerlessness, as well as their profound victimisation. 

Kirsty Brimelow QCProfessor Kevin Jon HellerJelia Sane and Tayyiba Bajwa were instructed by  Reprieve to represent the families. 

The Washington Post and Vice have both covered the story.