Al-Aulaqi Drone Attack Deaths Attract Lawsuit


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The targeted killing of American citizens in Yemen by the US has been perceived to be out-of-ordinary in spite of their terrorist activities.

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Al-Aulaqi Drone Attack Deaths Attract Lawsuit

  1. 1. Al-Aulaqi Drone Attack Deaths Attract Lawsuit The targeted killing of American citizens in Yemen by the US has been perceived to be out-of-ordinary in spite of their terrorist activities. Lawsuits involving the Federal government’s military actions are tricky ones, since there are many provisions that could justify their actions, not least of which is national security. The security of America and its citizens could, in some cases, support actions which would otherwise be condemnable. But if US citizens are on the receiving end of fatal military strikes, it does raise eyebrows even if those killed may have been terrorists. American Terrorist Suspects Killed by US Attacks Three US citizens in Yemen were killed by America’s drone attacks in 2011. They were terrorist suspects Anwar Al-Aulaqi, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi and Samir Khan. But their families have been told that they cannot sue the American government for that. This ruling has been recently made by a Washington federal judge and was in response to a complaint that was filed by Anwar Al-Aulaqi’s father and Samir Khan’s mother in 2012. No Provision for Lawsuit to Stand In the complaint they accused the US government’s drone strikes of being in violation of the Fourth as well as Fifth Amendments rights which Americans are eligible for. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and Center for Constitutional Rights lawyers. However, Rosemary Collyer, US District Judge, claimed that there just wasn’t any remedy available under American law for the claims in the complaint to stand. There were special circumstances in these incidents, she said, which deal with military and executive planning and action. The defendants were to be trusted to act according to the spirit of the US Constitution in cases where they target US citizens abroad, since the actions are carried out under the President’s direction as well as with consensus
  2. 2. from the Congress. As a result, the judge ruled that the defendants could not be charged with monetary damages as being personally responsible for such incidents in the event of a war. The lawsuit was dismissed on these grounds. Department of Justice’s Position not Acceptable Collyer, though, did not accept the position of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) that the case could not come under review at all thanks to the principle of political question. This is a question that keeps courts from carrying out reviews of some decisions that are left exclusively to the legislative or executive branches of the federal government. The decision to attack the American terrorists was, the DOJ argued, a national security one. This argument was rejected by Collyer. Collyer had, in the July 2013 hearing, expressed dissatisfaction on this position held by the government. Such an understanding would prevent courts from ever being able to review decisions involving targeting and killing of Americans abroad. Collyer differentiated the Al-Aulaqi killings from the other lawsuits which had been dismissed under the doctrine of political question, since these drone attacks involved US citizens. She said that the powers of the Congress and executive for ensuring national security are not a license for depriving US citizens of their lives without due process or judicial review. Federal Government Slack in Presenting Vital Statements Collyer also criticized the federal government for not turning over classified statements as demanded by her which would have supported the government’s position. Failure to submit these statements had made the case quite difficult, the judge said. She also revealed that it was the court’s piecing together of some conspicuous facts from some records that led it to dismiss the lawsuit. If these vital bits of data had not been found the court would have had to deny the dismissal, the judge said. The defendants did not care to present the requested evidence supporting their assertion of special circumstances in this suit. Attorneys involved in lawsuits such as these would need as much help as they can in collecting evidence, examining documents often involving classified information, and
  3. 3. a thorough knowledge of Federal norms and law. Dealing with statements and depositions and other written Legal documents or transcribed documents from companies and governmental organizations will need a lot of manpower. It can always be very involved when they have to manage lawsuits that are similar. Considering the trend more lawsuits like this one can be expected.