Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Rep. Jacobs Urges Pentagon to Compensate Drone Strike Victims’ Family | TOME


Rep. Sara Jacobs Urges Pentagon to Make Amends to Family of Drone Strike Victims

Rep. Sara Jacobs, a Democrat from California, is calling on the Pentagon to take immediate action to compensate a Somali family following an investigation by The Intercept into a 2018 U.S. drone strike that resulted in the deaths of a woman and her 4-year-old daughter.

The call for action comes after two dozen human rights organizations, including 14 Somali and 10 international groups, wrote an open letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in December, demanding compensation for the family and seeking an explanation and apology.

The 2018 attack in Somalia killed at least three, possibly five, civilians, including 22-year-old Luul Dahir Mohamed and her daughter Mariam Shilow Muse. While a U.S. military investigation acknowledged the deaths of a woman and child, their identities were never confirmed. The family has been trying to contact the U.S. government for over five years, including through the U.S. Africa Command’s online civilian casualty reporting portal, but has never received a response.

Rep. Jacobs, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is deeply troubled by the lack of response from the Department of Defense. She believes that acknowledgment and amends are necessary to bring peace and healing to the family.

Jacobs’s call for reparations comes after the Pentagon released its long-awaited “Instruction on Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response” (DoD-I) in late December. The document, mandated under the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and approved by Austin, directs the military to acknowledge civilian harm resulting from U.S. military operations and provide condolences and ex gratia payments to next of kin.

While the policy is welcomed by human rights organizations, they emphasize that implementation is key to its success. The Center for Civilians in Conflict, one of the groups that authored the open letter, believes that the policy should prevent a repetition of civilian harm caused by U.S. operations and provide answers and accountability to civilians harmed in those operations.

Despite the mention of ensuring a free flow of information to the media and the public in the DoD-I, the Pentagon has not responded to questions about the letter, the DoD-I, or Rep. Jacobs’s comments. This lack of response raises concerns about the effectiveness of the policy and the Pentagon’s commitment to addressing civilian harm.

In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny of the U.S. military’s killing of civilians, underreporting of noncombatant casualties, failures of accountability, and impunity in various countries. The Pentagon has pledged reforms and released the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP) to improve how it addresses noncombatant deaths. However, the plan lacks clear mechanisms for addressing past civilian harm.

Rep. Jacobs, as the founder and co-chair of the Protection of Civilians in Conflict Caucus, has been at the forefront of pressing the Pentagon for greater accountability for civilian casualties. She introduced the Civilian Harm Review and Reassessment Act, which would require the Defense Department to examine and reinvestigate past civilian casualty allegations and make amends if necessary.

Her efforts also led to a provision in the 2024 NDAA that requires the director of national intelligence to notify Congress if U.S. intelligence, used by a third party, results in civilian casualties. Additionally, a Government Accountability Office assessment of the effectiveness of civilian harm training is underway.

Rep. Jacobs urges the Department of Defense to fulfill its responsibility outlined in the CHMR-AP and make amends for past civilian harm. The Somali family affected by the 2018 drone strike deserves answers, acknowledgment, and compensation for their loss.

In conclusion, Rep. Sara Jacobs is calling on the Pentagon to take immediate action to compensate a Somali family affected by a 2018 drone strike. The lack of response from the U.S. government and the release of the DoD-I policy raise concerns about the effectiveness of addressing civilian harm. Rep. Jacobs’s efforts to hold the Pentagon accountable for civilian casualties are commendable, and it is crucial for the Department of Defense to fulfill its responsibility and provide amends for past civilian harm.

Latest stories