“Your son Hamza is dead,” Hussein Dahman heard on the morning of March 20th, 2014. Hussein lost his 16-year-old child, after 15 months of struggle. Hamza got paralyzed as a result of violent shock he suffered while watching the horrific attack of a U.S. drone. In December 24, 2012, a drone broke the silence of a Shehr city in Hadramout and killed four people; they were alleged suspects of “terrorism.”
Hamza’s tragic story dates back to the evening of December 24, 2012. Hamza was on his way home when he heard the noise of three violent explosions nearby. Panic swept the city’s population, followed by frightening silence. Only the drones’ humming could be heard, as it was hovering at a low altitude.
Some minutes passed, and like everyone else, Hamza rushed to get closer to the place. There he found the scattered bodies’ remains lying on the ground. The view was horrible, with flames rising from their corpses, and some were bleeding profusely. Hamza could not stand the scene and quickly returned to his house. His face was pale and the effect of the shock was visible.
He tried to explain the scene to his family, but he lost consciousness, and was immediately taken to the hospital. Hamza was trying to overcome his shock, but because of a delayed therapeutic intervention, the poor performance of the health sector in Yemen, and lack of money, his health deteriorated more and more. His family was forced to use their savings and went into debt to travel to Cairo for a cure, but fate was stronger. Hamza died complaining about the death of morality, and the tyranny of power.
A report issued by al-Karama organization says that since the first strike in November 2002, the United States has carried out between 134 and 234 military operations in Yemen in its War on Terror. These include strikes by aircraft and drones, as well as missiles launched from warships located in the Gulf of Aden. Estimates of the number of people killed as a result of the targeted killings range from 1, 000 to 2, 000.
Although neither the Yemeni nor the American authorities have put forward official statistics on the number of casualties, the percentage of hit targets like al-Qaeda combatants, is estimated at 2%. The vast majority of the victims are civilians. Karim al-Sayad, Regional Legal Officer for the Gulf, explained that this is also experimental.
“Yemen – just like Pakistan – has become a testing ground for revolutionary new methods of warfare, not only technically, but also politically and legally.”
Al-Sayad added that regardless of the context in which American intervention in Yemen takes place, the American military and C.I.A continue to use drones, other types of military aircraft, and warships to carry out targeted assassinations that should be considered, and qualified, as extrajudicial executions.
“Whether they hit civilians or alleged al-Qaeda combatants and associates, the US targeted killings’ policy in Yemen constitutes a blatant violation of international human rights law.”
In December 2013, the United States completely ignored when the Yemeni parliament called for an immediate end to drone strikes in the country. Al-Karam called on the American government to end all policies that undermine national sovereignty, including interventions into Yemeni airspace or soil by foreign armed forces. It cited article 48 of the constitution, which states that “the state shall guarantee to its citizens their personal freedom, preserve their dignity and their security.”
Al-Karam also stressed that the government has to undertake independent and impartial inquiries and legal measures to find those responsible for acts that have led to violations of the right to life. It must additionally take the necessary legislative measures to ban and criminalize the practice of extrajudicial executions, by drones, and all other military means.
Hamza was only one of hundreds of invisible victims of U.S. drones’ attacks in Yemen. He was not a member of Al Qaeda, not wanted by the law, and he certainly was not an intentional target for drones. His only crime is that he went out one evening to play football, and he got caught in a terrible situation. He is only one episode in a series of hardships, and U.S. covert operations must end in Yemen, if only for Hamza’s sake.