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A family member of two people killed by an American drone strike in Yemen received a bag of cash in July to compensate for his losses, a human rights organization told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
It remains unclear whether the compensation came from the U.S. government. However, the funds were given to the victims’ family member by Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB) — the Yemeni equivalent of the CIA — months after the relative traveled to Washington to press officials over his losses.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s brother-in-law, 43, an imam who had preached against Al-Qaeda, and his nephew, 26, were killed together with three alleged Al-Qaeda fighters in a village in the southeast of Gulf nation on Aug. 29, 2012. Bin Ali Jaber’s family members were, at the time, reportedly trying to convince the armed fighters to abandon militancy.
International human rights organization Reprieve sent Al Jazeera a series of documents, including bank transfers, detailing the release of roughly $100,000 in cash to compensate bin Ali Jaber for his losses. Among the documents are bank notices without signatures from creditors.
Bin Ali Jaber had been called to a local NSB office to collect the funds. An NSB official present during the transaction insisted that the executor add on the transfer document that the money had come from the NSB alone and withhold the source of the money, Repreive told Al Jazeera. But the legal advocacy group maintains the cash is blood money from the United States.
White House National Security Council staff declined Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
“President Obama is as reluctant as ever to admit the full extent of the U.S. drone program in Yemen — but money talks, even if the White House won’t,” said Cori Crider, the Reprieve attorney who represents Bin Ali Jaber.
“Cash payments without full accountability won’t quell the outrage about civilian drone deaths.”
Namir Shabibi, a caseworker on Reprieve’s Abuses in Counter-terrorism team said small indemnities for the families of civilian drone-strike victims wouldn’t force the U.S. to take extra precautions to avoid future tragedies.
“It’s small claims in the U.S. coffers — probably loose change, you can call it,” said Shabibi.
“The absence of any apology, explanation and accountability means that those in Yemen that say that no amount of reasoned debate and peaceful campaigning will get the U.S. to listen to you can think — the U.S.’s behavior vindicates that narrative, as wrong as it may be. And as unfortunate as it may be,” Shabibi added.
Shabibi said the July payment wasn’t the first time families of U.S. drone-strike victims have received payment. In August, Reprieve learned that family members of 12 wedding party guests killed in one strike in December 2013 had received over $1 million in “secret government payments.”
But others — particularly those without representation through human rights groups like Reprieve — go without any compensation. Reprieve helped help Bin Ali Jaber travel to Washington in November 2013.
“Several of our clients have not received any compensation let alone an apology for their loss,” Shabibi said, noting that the victims of drone strikes are sometimes “breadwinners — key figures in the family” who leave children and other dependents behind.