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2015 | Presidential Statement: Remarks on the Deaths of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto by former US President Barack Obama

In this presidential statement, former United States (US) president Barack Obama takes “full responsibility” for the accidental deaths of the American Warren Weinstein and the Italian Giovanni Loporto. The men were killed in a drone strike conducted in the context of a counterterrorism operation against al-Quada in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in January 2015. Obama also offers his condolences, regrets and apologies. He directs a full investigation into the events and disclosure of the outcome, measuring up to the victims’ families right to the truth. He promisses that his administration will identify lessons learned and make efforts to establish non-recurrence. The statement, however, is silent on the issue of financial compensation.

International law refers to these measures as ‘reparations.’ While the prevailing view is that a legal obligation to provide reparations ensues from a violation of rules of international law, Obama seems to indicate that such violation is not at play here when stating that “this operation was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region.” Basically, this means that accidents and mistakes in warfare are not considered legal wrong-doing per se.

Reportedly, the US has negotiated condolence payment –ex gratia payments- with the families. Although such payments do not imply admission of wrongdoing on the part of the US, nor establish any legal precedent, Obama’s response is unprecedented and displays a significantly higher degree of transparency compared to the silence on other drone strikes that have killed civilians in countries as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.