The U.S. embassy in Rome has confirmed that the Obama Administration will pay $1.32 million to the family of Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian worker who was being held hostage by al Qaeda at the time of his death, The Guardian reported on Friday.
The U.S. will make a “condolence payment” to Lo Porto’s family, after acknowledging that Lo Porto, 37, was killed accidentally by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan as part of a counter-terrorism mission in 2015.
Warren Weinstein, a 73-year-old American, was also killed during that same drone strike.
The payment was finalised on July 8 and signed by a U.S. diplomat in the Rome embassy and Lo Porto’s family, according to documents originally obtained by La Repubblica.
“I will not see my son at home with his smile. They took my precious son and they also killed me. Now all that remains for me is to wait until the last day of my life for divine, not earthly, justice,” Lo Porto’s mother, Giusy, said in a statement after the payment was finalised.
Lo Porto was kidnapped by al Qaeda in 2012 and Weinstein was abducted in 2011, according to a statement by President Obama. The White House asserted that while the deaths of Weinstein and Lo Porto were a national tragedy, it followed proper protocol while carrying out the mission.
“Our initial assessment indicates that this operation was fully consistent with the guidelines under which we conduct counterterrorism efforts in the region,” President Obama said.
Based on the intel at the time, the White House and national security team believed that the compound they were attacking was an al Qaeda stronghold and that there were no civilians present, according to the statement. While the operation successfully eliminated some key al Qaeda members, the White House lamented that “tragically” it was not aware of the presence of Warren and Giovanni in the same compound.
A report by the Washington Post released in September 2015 seems to indicate that the U.S. suffered a “surveillance lapse” when it failed to locate hostages in the compound.
The condolence payment agreement also included a stipulation that the payment “does not imply the consent” of the US to submit to Italian courts in disputes related directly or indirectly to the payment.
“After this money, the family seems to have even fewer roads to find out what exactly happened and what were the mistakes that led to the death of their relative,” said Giulia Borgna, a lawyer representing the Lo Porto family, according to La Repubblica.
Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer based in London who represents the families of innocent civilians killed in combat, was critical of the decision to pay Lo Porto’s family.
“As far as we know, the U.S. has never officially compensated [anybody] in Pakistan for the deaths of their innocent relatives,” Gibson told La Repubblica.
According to Gibson, there were multiple cases in Yemen where relatives of victims were offered payment seeming to come from the U.S.. When those victims’ families tried to dig into the circumstances surrounding their family member’s death, they were met with opposition however.
“[I]t is, therefore…money put on the table without the acknowledgment of responsibility,” Gibson concluded.
The US released a report in July detailing that air strikes — drone and others — carried out during Obama’s presidency have killed anywhere from 64 to 116 civilians, and that the 473 strikes launched during his time in office have killed between 2,372 and 2,581 enemy combatants.
Those estimates, however, are hundreds lower than that of independent groups, according to USAToday.
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