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Bereaved Yemenis to launch national drone victims’ organisation
A group of people who have lost loved ones to US drone strikes in Yemen will next week (Tuesday April 1) launch a national organisation with the aim of supporting affected communities and highlighting the civilian impact of the covert programme.
The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), which is the first of its kind in Yemen, was founded by Mohammad al-Qawli, an Advisor to the Ministry of Education. Mr al-Qawli lost his brother, an elementary school-teacher, in a January 2013 drone strike in Khawlan, a district near the country’s capital Sanaa.
The launch will bring together a number of families who have lost relatives or friends to drone attacks, including: victims of the December 2013 strike which hit a wedding party in Radaa; and Faisal Ali Bin Jaber, whose brother-in-law, an imam who preached against Al-Qaeda, and nephew were killed in an August 2012 strike.
According to Mr al-Qawli the organisation will seek to investigate and publish facts about drone strikes and their effects on communities with the aim of changing government policy regarding the secretive US programme. While the Yemeni parliament has passed a resolution criminalising drone strikes, they continue with the approval of the Yemeni administration. The past year has seen a surge, with as many as eleven taking place in the first few months of 2014 alone.
The organisation will also seek to assist affected communities with the after-effects of drone strikes including: the economic impact of the loss of families’ primary bread-winners; psychological trauma—particularly in children; and physical injuries.
NODV founder and president Mohammad al-Qawli said: “I founded the NODV in memory of my brother Ali because it was clear that the voices of victims of the US drone programme in Yemen need to be heard and the affected communities need support. There is so much misinformation spread about these attacks and almost no notice paid to the lasting, devastating affect they have on communities throughout Yemen. These attacks are making us all less safe: not only are innocents killed, but drone strikes create instability and radicalisation. By bringing victims together we have the chance to uncover facts regarding the strikes and their consequences and work together towards ending the illegal use of drones in Yemen and preventing further bloodshed.”
UK votes against greater transparency around drones at UN
The UK today voted against a UN resolution seeking to “ensure transparency” around drone strikes, just days after an influential Parliamentary committee called for “greater transparency” around the UK’s role in the US’ covert drone programme.
The resolution, which was voted on at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)today, also“express[ed] deep concern” at civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes.
The UK’s no vote comes just days after the House of Commons’ Defence Committee called for “greater transparency” from the British Government over its reported involvement in the US programme of secret drone strikes that have killed thousands of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen.
The UNHRC resolution, which passed despite opposition from the US, UK and other European states, also raised concerns over “the interruption of education, the undermining of religious and cultural practices and the reluctance to assist the victims of drone strikes for fear of being caught in secondary strikes.” It called upon states using drones – currently the US, UK and Israel – to ensure transparency in their use of drones and “to conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of a violation of international law.”
Ireland was the only European member state to vote in favour of the resolution – it was opposed by France, while Germany – whose intelligence sharing links with the US are reportedly supporting the covert drone programme – abstained. Last month members of the European Parliament voted in an overwhelming landslide of 534 to 49 to ban covert drone strikes.
Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney at Reprieve, said: “While the British and European Parliaments have recently made it crystal clear that they want to increase transparency around drone strikes, the governments of these countries seem happy to ignore the voice of the people. This ‘no’ vote from the UK shows that the Government is happy to support US drone strikes without any transparency or accountability. The British people deserve to know what is being done in their name to civilian communities in Yemen and Pakistan.”