Human rights lawyers: British civilians are ‘parties to murders’ carried out by US drones
By End the Lie
Civilians at the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are at risk of being prosecuted for war crimes due to legal action been taken over the alleged participation of British intelligence in the American Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) “targeted killing” program.
Tomorrow human rights lawyers are set to issue proceedings which say that employees at Britain’s intelligence agency who work with the United States in directing drone strikes in Pakistan could be “secondary parties to murder,” according to the Guardian.
The lawyers allege that any UK guidance which allows the passing of information to the CIA for use in the drone attacks is unlawful.
Previously, Pakistan has cited the fact that the attacks violate their national sovereignty, while concerns have also been raised about the legality of the program under international humanitarian law.
If one thing is clear, it is that the program is indeed chronically violating Pakistani sovereignty and resulted in countless deaths of innocent people.
Reports suggest that GCHQ, which is overseen by the British foreign secretary William Hague, gives “locational intelligence” to the United States for use in the CIA targeting of alleged militants throughout Pakistan.
The action is being brought by the law firm of Leigh Day & Co along with Reprieve, a legal action charity.
It is directed at Hague on behalf of an individual named Noor Khan, whose father was murdered last year in Pakistan by a US drone strike.
Khan’s father, Malik Daud Khan was, at the time, presiding over a peaceful council of tribal elders in North Waziristan when a missile fired from what is believed to be a CIA-operated drone, struck the gathering, killing over 40 people.
Lawyers take issue with the reports that quote GCHQ sources who justify their intelligence sharing with the United States has being in “strict accordance” with the law.
The legal proceedings at the British high court will challenge the legality of this alleged complicity.
The lawyers are arguing 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 offenses under the International Criminal Court Act, 2001.”
According to legal documents, the only individuals who are entitled to immunity from ordinary criminal law regarding armed attacks are those who are considered under international law to be “lawful combatants” who are participating in an “international armed conflict.”
Leigh Day & Co’s head of human rights, Richard Stein, said that since GCHQ staff are civilians and not combatants and there is no recognized “international armed conflict” in Pakistan, they have no such immunity.
“We believe that there is credible, unchallenged evidence that the secretary of state is operating a policy of passing intelligence to officials or agents of the US government; and that he considers such a policy to be “in strict accordance” with the law,” Stein said.
“If this is the case, the secretary of state has misunderstood one or more of the principles of international law governing immunity for those involved in armed attacks on behalf of a state and/or the lawfulness of such attacks; and his policy, if implemented, involves the commission of serious criminal offences by employees of GCHQ or by other officials or agents of the UK government in the UK,” he added.
Lawyers are attempting to discover if there is indeed any United Kingdom policy or guidance which deals with circumstances in which information that might be used in directing drone strikes on Pakistani soils can be shared with American officials or agents.
The director of the legal action charity Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith, said, “What has the government got to hide? If they’re not supplying information as part of the CIA’s illegal drone war, why not tell us? And if they are, they need to come clean.”
Hopefully the British government is slightly more committed to transparency than the Obama administration, which has totally gone back on their promises to become “the most transparent administration in history.”
While American officials have admitted that the CIA drone program (which itself has not actually been officially confirmed) has killed many alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, a spokesman for the UK’s Foreign Office said he could not comment on it.
Recently, United States Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that the secret, closed-door reviews of the evidence against alleged militants, including American citizens, counts as due process.
Thus, the Obama administration claims that the assassination of American citizens abroad like Anwar al-Awlaki, is not actually an assassination but a lawful killing.
Yet they still refuse to actually defend their actions in court, instead claiming that the program is so secret that they cannot even confirm or deny its existence.
Hopefully the legal pressures in the UK will bleed over into the United States a little bit and put some pressure on the U.S. government to be even remotely accountable for their actions.
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