2018: British armed drone operations reach a crossroads

In December 2017 the RAF announced that British Reaper drones had reached the significant milestone of flying 100,000 hours of combat operations. First deployed in Afghanistan in 2007 and, on operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since 2014, the UK’s Reapers have been continuously engaged in surveillance and strike operations for a decade. However, with the collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, ten years of continuous drone operations should be coming to an end. But statements by British government ministers as well as senior military officers indicate that the UK wants its Reapers to continue to fly, seemingly indefinitely. Read more

The lawfulness of the drone strike against Sally Jones

By Max Brookman-Byrne, Lecturer in Law, University of LincolnReposted with permission.

Sally Jones, reportedly killed in US drone strike in June 2017

It was today revealed by various newspapers (for instance, the GuardianBBC and Mail) that Sally Jones, the so-called ‘White Widow’, has likely been killed by a targeted drone strike. Jones was described as being a member of ISIS and was apparently killed, along with her 12-year-old son, in June 2017 near the Iraq-Syria border.

As a researcher whose work for the last three and a bit years has been on the lawfulness of drone strikes, the question of whether this strike was lawful or not immediately came to mind. Jones was viewed as a member of ISIS and generally the media has uncritically reported her death, implying an assumption that the strike was lawful. But is this correct?

There is an armed conflict occurring in the situation in which Jones was Read more

Intelligence Committee Report on UK Drone Killing: Little Information. Few Answers. No Accountability.

Dominic Grieve: “profoundly dissapointed at the failure of the government to provide the relevant documents.”

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has published its report into the intelligence basis of the UK’s 2015 drone targeted killing of Reyaad Khan in Syria in August 2015.  The report has been heavily censored by the government before release and, due to the calling of a general election, the Committee says it cannot push back against the amount of redactions that have been imposed on it . Read more

PM must publish Intelligence Committee report on UK drone killings

Dominic Grieve MP, Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee

Soon after it had been re-constituted in the new parliament, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) issued  a statement in October 2015 saying that an investigation into the drone strikes in which British nationals were killed was an “immediate priority”.

Fifteen months later, in December 2016, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) put a short note on its website saying that it had handed over its report, UK Lethal Drone Strikes in Syria, to the Prime Minister after completing its inquiry and expected a redacted version would be published in the New Year.  Four months later we are still waiting. Read more

Attorney General speaks on legality of UK preemptive drone strikes

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Jeremy Wright speaking at IISS. Click for video of the speech

UK Attorney General Jeremy Wright’s speech at the IISS on Wednesday evening, “The modern law of self-defence“, trailed by advanced PR as “setting out the legal basis for British military strikes against terror targets overseas”, gained a flurry of advance media coverage.  I’m sure others far more qualified will comment in detail on the legal content of the speech.  However, as it undoubtedly relates to the operation of the UK’s drone fleet, it’s important to look at what the speech reveals. Read more

Truth and consequences: One year on what we know (and what we don’t) about the Khan killing

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Reyaad Khan – killed in British targeted drone strike on Aug 21 2015

One year ago this weekend (on 21 Aug) an RAF pilot sitting in a Ground Control Station at RAF Waddington pushed a button and Hellfire missiles flashed away from a British Reaper drone loitering a few miles from Raqqa in Northern Syria.  The missiles slammed into an SUV killing all three occupants.  What was said in the Ground Control Station at the time is not publicly known but, as a senior British military officer put it a few months later, a Rubicon had been crossed. Read more