Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Family of Italian Killed in Drone Strike Gets More Than $1 Million From US

A predator drone. (photo: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images)
A predator drone. (photo: Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images)

Family of Italian Killed in Drone Strike Gets More Than $1 Million From US

By Cora Currier, The Intercept
17 September 16

 The United States paid over a million euros to the the family of Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker killed in a U.S. drone strike in January of last year, according to newly released documents.

   The 37-year-old Lo Porto died when CIA drones struck an Al Qaeda compound where he was being held hostage along with Warren Weinstein, an American humanitarian worker. In a rare admission of responsibility, President Barack Obama acknowledged the strike and promised compensation for the families.

   The Intercept first reported that the family had reached a settlement with the U.S. government in July. Italian government documents obtained by La Repubblica show that Lo Porto’s mother and father accepted 1.185 million euros (about $1.3 million) as a “donation in the memory” of their son. The document, in which the U.S. government was represented by a diplomat with the embassy in Rome, confirms that Lo Porto died in Pakistan, but includes no admission of wrong-doing by the United States.

  The document also states that the agreement does not imply “a waiver of sovereign or personal immunity.” Lawyers for the Lo Porto family had pressed the Italian state prosecutor to consider a criminal case against the United States, while acknowledging that the chances of such a case going forward were slim. They also asked for more information from U.S. agencies about the strike and its aftermath. There is reportedly a CIA Inspector General investigation into the incident; in July, the White House would not comment on the status of the inquiry. It is not known if the Weinstein family has also settled with the government.

   The U.S. has in a few instances reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the families of civilians killed in attacks in Yemen, but has not publicly acknowledged doing so. Many human rights advocacy groups see a double-standard in the silence of the U.S. government on the cases of non-Westerners who have died.

   Earlier this summer, the Obama administration released its own tally of casualties from counterterrorism operations (the estimate of 64 to 116 civilians killed over 7 years is in sharp disagreement with outside estimates, some of which put the civilian death toll as high as 1,000.) The release was accompanied by an executive order requiring U.S. forces to take measures to avoid civilian casualties, investigate instances of civilian harm, and to acknowledge and provide compensation for any civilian victims.

   In light of the new order, Amnesty International has asked the CIA to respond to the death of Mamana Bibi, an elderly Pakistani woman killed in 2012. So far, they have received no answer, according to Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International’s Security with Human Rights program.

  In July, a White House spokesperson told The Intercept that they “will not address specific operations.”

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