Drone strike victim asks Supreme Court to check Trump’s lethal powers

October 4, 2017

A man whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike has asked the Supreme Court to exercise its powers of oversight over President Trump’s use of lethal force.

Engineer Faisal bin Ali Jaber is seeking justice for his brother-in-law, Salem, a local religious leader who had preached against terrorism, and nephew, Waleed, a policeman. Both were killed by a US drone in Yemen in 2012. Mr. Jaber seeks only an apology for their deaths from the US government.

In June this year, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia claimed it did not have the authority to determine whether any particular drone strike taken by the US was legal. However, in a concurring opinion, Judge Janice Rogers Brown attacked the system of accountability for lethal action taken by the President, stating “our democracy is broken” and “congressional oversight is a joke—and a bad one at that.”

Reprieve is now assisting Mr. Jaber to take his case to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not the judicial branch of government has the power to review executive use of lethal force. Lower courts have been divided on the scope of the so-called “political question doctrine” and urgent clarity is now needed from the nation’s highest court.

Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, attorney at Reprieve US said:

“Faisal’s case poses a question of fundamental constitutional importance: should President Trump have an unlimited power to assassinate whoever he wants, without having to face judicial review? For the first time, the Supreme Court now has the opportunity to clarify its commitment to proper judicial oversight of the President’s use of lethal force. For the sake of the Jaber family and other victims of US drone strikes overseas, we hope the country’s highest court steps up to the plate.”

 

Notes to Editors:

1. The full Petition for Certiorari and appendix can be found here and here.

2. The legal authority for drone strikes in Yemen comes from the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which was passed in September 2001 and has not been properly debated by Congress since. The AUMF give the President almost unlimited powers to use lethal force abroad.

3. According to the Congressional Research Service the AUMF has been used a justification for military interventions in at least 14 countries including Afghanistan, Yemen and Iraq.