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Sunday, 18 December 2011
UK Government challenged over complicity in CIA drone attacks
Lawyers for the son of a victim of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have written to the British Foreign Secretary, asking him to clarify what the UK’s policy is on providing intelligence used by the US in its ‘targeted killing’ campaign. Leigh Day & Co, acting on behalf of Noor Khan, whose father was killed earlier this year in a drone strike on ajirga– or council of elders – in North West Pakistan, have asked William Hague to provide answers to key questions on how far the UK assists the US in its drone strike programme. Several reports have stated that British intelligence agencies have provided information on the whereabouts of alleged ‘militants’ targeted by the CIA’s illegal campaign, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians. The letter puts the following questions to the Foreign Secretary: (1) Whether the UK passed information to the US which was or may have been used in the attack on our client’s father on 17 March 2011, or any other drone attacks in the Pakistan border region; (2) Whether you accept that (a) the attack on our client’s family and (b) drone attacks in Pakistan generally are contrary to international law and, if not, why not; (3) Whether the UK continues to pass locational or other information to the US in circumstances where that information will or might be used in directing drone attacks in Pakistan (given that such attacks are endangering our client and his remaining family members); (4) If so, what arrangements are in place to enable relevant UK authorities to satisfy themselves, before information is passed to the US which is intended to be used, or which may be used, to direct drone attacks, that the passing of that information would not involve participation by UK officials or agents in acts which are unlawful in international and/or domestic law; and (5) In particular whether there exists any policy, guidance or other document dealing with the circumstances in which information which will or may be used in directing drone attacks in Pakistan may be shared with the US. Clive Stafford Smith, Director of legal action charity Reprieve, said: “CIA drone strikes are killing huge numbers of civilians and destabilising Pakistan. The British people have a right to know what their country’s policy is regarding our involvement in this illegal and disastrous campaign.” Richard Stein, Head of the Human Rights team at Leigh Day & Cosaid:"This legal action simply looks to ask a number of questions of our Government regarding UK involvement in the drone strikes in Pakistan which, it is estimated, have killed thousands of people within a country we are not militarily engaged with and therefore, we believe, are against international law. We ask the Foreign Secretary whether any information is being passed by agents of the UK Government to US Government forces to assist in these attacks. Unless it is catagorically denied that the UK continues to pass such information to the US Government forces, we require a clear policy statement of the arrangements which are in place and circumstances in which the UK considers it to be lawful to do so."