Relatives of three US citizens killed in non-UN sanctioned US assassination drone strikes in Yemen have sued senior officials at the US Defense Department and the CIA.
According to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday, the killings of US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and naturalized US citizen Samir Khan were unconstitutional, Reuters reported.
The victims’ relatives said that the three assassinations committed by the CIA violated US legal guarantees, including the right to due process.
On January 31, President Obama confirmed that the US uses the unmanned drones in Pakistan and other countries.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Alfred Lambremont Webre, human rights & war crimes lawyer, to further discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
First question is a natural one. How strong a case do these families have at this point against the US government and its officials?
I think that the plaintiffs here have a very strong case and I base that on two different grounds. Number one, I’m a judge on the Kuala Lumpur war crimes tribunal, and in May of this year we found George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld and their foreign lawyers guilty of war crimes and their conspiracy to violate the Geneva Conventions for torturing civilians in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Bagram airfarce base in Afghanistan, and in Guantanamo in Cuba.
The reason was that they drafted memoranda and legal opinions which were part of a conspiracy to circumvent and to create fraudulent legal opinions by which their practices was constituted torture that was absolutely banned by the Geneva conventions they could get around.
And it’s the same strategy here. The CIA will not release the legal memoranda which allegedly gives the legal authority to President Barack Obama to approve these strikes, and they won’t do so because it’s the same patently fraudulent legal memorandum that was used by Alberto Gonzalez and Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in the case of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Guantanamo.
Secondly, the drone program, the drone assassination program especially against US citizens, especially in nations like Yemen where there’s no declared war is absolutely unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers as between the Congress and the executive.
Only the Congress can declare war, and then the president does not have the authority to be a judge over whether an individual -- who’s a US citizen -- is or is not a civilian, and to be judge, jury and executioner here.
Here, the two civilians that were killed, they now admit were not the targets. According to the plaintiff, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, there have been thousands of civilians killed.
Is it then your professional opinion that the future looks optimistic and bright for those who want justice from the likes of Panetta and Petraeus?
Yes. People should just keep on challenging these rulings in court because there’s nothing but these fraudulent legal memoranda. Here we have the secret CIA legal memo which they will not show.
We were able to prove that the Kuala Lumpur war crimes tribunal, I mean we judged it, we had opposing council, we had defense council and prosecution council, and we the court determined that in fact Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush, and their four lawyers including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales having engaged in a conspiracy to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and most probably that is occurring here in my judgment as a war crimes judge and as a war crimes attorney.