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
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
The Joint Human Rights Committee have today released their report into the use of armed drones for targeted killing. While the drone strike that targeted and killed 21-year-old British citizen Reyaad Khan last August was in many ways the trigger for the inquiry, the Committee chose to focus on the wider legal issues around the policy of targeted killing itself, rather than that specific operation.
In an initial assessment of the report there are three points to be made:
1. Important recommendations
While Drone Wars UK would not agree with some of the general conclusions reached, the Committee makes strong and important calls on the Government to clarify its often confusing and apparently contradictory position on legal issues related to the use of armed drones outside conventional armed conflicts. In particular it urges the government to clarify: Read more
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will face questions from the Human Rights Select Committee on Wednesday (16 Dec) over the targeted killing of two British men in a UK drone strike. 21-year old Reyaad Khan from Cardiff was killed in the strike in Syria on 21 August 2015 alongside 26-year old Ruhul Amin from Aberdeen and an unknown third man.
Yesterday’s statement from Prime Minister David Cameron that a British drone had targeted and killed a 21 year-old British citizen, Reyaad Khan, outside a situation of armed conflict after he had been put on what amounts to a kill list months earlier is shocking. Time and again in response to questions about the UK’s drone programme British ministers, defence officials and military officers have distanced themselves from the type of targeted killing undertaken by US drones outside a situation of formal conflict. ‘It’s something we wouldn’t do’ has been the mantra. Read more
In a shocking statement made in the House of Commons this afternoon Prime Minster David Cameron announced that for the first time a British citizen, Reyaad Khan, has been targeted for assassination by a British drone. A second Briton, Ruhul Amin and a third unknown man were also killed in the strike. Cameron told the House:
Today I can inform the House that in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision air strike carried out on 21st August by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqah in Syria.
In addition to Reyaad Khan who was the target of the strike, two ISIL associates were also killed, one of whom – Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national. They were ISIL fighters and I can confirm there were no civilian casualties.