Drones now Under Control Directly from UK Soil……

29 Oct

On 14 September 2012 The Dripping Tap wrote an article entitled Drone Attack over London.  Although this was a somewhat tongue in cheek attempt to highlight what the political fallout of someone such as Julian Assange being ‘removed’ from the ‘theatre of war’ in our capital city, it was intended to draw a parallel between the use of Drone strikes being used in Pakistan and our apparent acceptance of this method of ‘warfare’, when compared with how we may rethink our position if it were to used on UK soil.  Little did I know at the time that this subject was about to be brought into sharper focus in the UK political arena……

The Introduction of Drones to the UK……

On 26 October 2012 the announcement that 13 Squadron, based at RAF Waddington near Lincoln, had been established after extensive training in the United States.  The Squadron operates 10 Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV’s), currently deployed on the Afghan border with Pakistan, by remote control.  One could consider this to be a sort of Xbox warfare.  The terms of reference as to how these Drones will be used is unclear but based on the American model, we can assume they will be more than surveillance equipment.  I find this a worrying development in its potential implications for what has proven questionable human rights violations by the existing US Drone strategy……

Legal Action being taken by the Family of a Drone Strike Victim……

Noor Khan is taking legal action against the UK government regarding its sharing of intelligence with the US for use in drone strikes in Pakistan. Noor Khan’s father was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan on 17 March 2011.

The attack targeted a meeting of local tribal elders meeting to discuss a dispute over a local chromite mine.  Approximately 50 people were killed in the attack. Noor’s father was one of a number of ‘maliks’ or tribal elders, highly respected in the local community, whose role it was to mediate and resolve local disputes peacefully.

Noor was at his family home in Miranshah when he was told about the drone attack by his uncle. He was told at once that none of the elders had survived. Noor immediately drove to the site of the attack: “I can only describe the scene of the strike as carnage.  Fires were scattered about everywhere and the air was saturated with the scent of burnt human flesh.” His father’s body was very badly disfigured.

Noor’s family have lost their patriarch and their only source of income. The wider impact of the March 17 attack has also been devastating on the local community, as villages across Waziristan lost community leaders in the strike. Drone attacks have caused high numbers of civilian casualties in Waziristan, with villagers living in constant fear of the drones circling above their villages. Children in the area are afraid to attend school because of drones, and Noor fears for the future of the community with children and young people failing to obtain an education.  Although the legality of drone strikes has been heavily criticised by prominent figures such as the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, it has been reported in the media that intelligence from GCHQ, the UK’s eavesdropping agency, has been shared by the UK for use in US drone attacks.

Noor Khan’s legal challenge states that this practice may be unlawful. Only persons entitled to immunity from ordinary criminal law in respect of armed attacks are “lawful combatants,” participating in an “international armed conflict” in accordance with international law. As CIA and GCHQ employees are civilians and not “combatants” they are not entitled to immunity from ordinary criminal law. Even if they were, the UK is not at war with Pakistan.

GCHQ staff who assist CIA employees to direct drone attacks in Pakistan are in principle liable under UK law for murder, and any policy which involves passing intelligence to the CIA for use in drone strikes in Pakistan is unlawful.

Evidence suggests that drone strikes in Pakistan are being carried out in violation of international humanitarian law, because the individuals who are being targeted are not directly participating in hostilities, and/or because the high civilian death toll from drone attacks means the force used is neither necessary nor proportionate.

This suggests that there is also a significant risk that GCHQ officers may be guilty of conduct ancillary to crimes against humanity and/or war crimes, both of which are statutory offences under the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

On May 9th 2012, Noor Khan filed a petition over the death of his father by a CIA drone attack, launching legal action against the Pakistani Government for its responsibility in relation to the strike.

See the Reprieve Press Releases from March 12th 2012: UK to face legal challenge over drones policy……


Worrying Times Ahead……

The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan planned for 2014 leaves open the question of what the UK intends to use its 10 drone aircraft in the future?  Will they be operating in UK airspace and potentially ‘removing’ suspected terrorists from the streets of the UK.  Or will they operate over other countries sovereign territories with apparent impunity?…….

‘Join Reprieve in their fight for justice for the victims of extrajudicial execution by drone strikes over Pakistan, a country with whom neither the UK or USA are ‘at war’……

www,reprieve.org  with thanks for editorial courtesy of Repreive,org


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