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Legal basis for drone strikes called into question

JCHR report demonstrates a lack of concern for legal processes in targeted drone killings

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Joint Committee on Human Rights found the government has been “confused and confusing” about the policy


THE government’s legal basis for launching drone strikes against Islamic State (Isis) terrorists is being called into question by a human rights committee today.

MPs and peers sitting on the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) found the government has been “confused and confusing” about the policy, which they said it must urgently clarify.

Despite the government’s insistence that it did not have a “targeted killing” policy, it was clear that Britain was prepared to use lethal force overseas for counterterrorism purposes, the senior parliamentarians found.

The committee accepted that the drone strike which killed British jihadist Reyaad Khan in August 2015 was part of the armed conflict against Isis in Iraq and Syria and therefore covered by the law of war.

But chairwoman Harriet Harman said the government had not been “crystal clear” about the legal basis for the killing of Mr Khan in Syria.

And the committee also raised wider concerns about the potential use of drones in other parts of the world where Isis is active.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the strike against Mr Khan was a “new departure” when he revealed details of the operation in September 2015, before MPs had voted on extending the fight against Isis into Syria.

But the JCHR pointed out that Britain’s permanent representative to the United Nations had said that the action had been taken in defence of Iraq.

The committee said its inquiry found that the PM appeared to tell the Commons on September 7 that the government was willing to use lethal force abroad, outside armed conflict such as in Libya.

That position was “put beyond any doubt” by the permission given to the United States to use airbases in Britain to launch strikes against an Isis camp in Libya, the committee said.

Stop the War coalition convenor Lindsey German told the Star: “This report demonstrates a lack of concern for legal process in the targeting of Isis.

“As the report says, there is a clear government policy to use lethal force abroad outside armed conflict for counterterrorism purposes, in other words to deliberately target individuals and assassinate them.

“With the government now intervening directly in Iraq and Syria and talking about yet another intervention in Libya, these policies have done nothing to stop terrorism.

“Their questionable legality will underline the very real concerns that these actions can only make things worse.”

Source: The Morning Star

Tags: drones

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