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
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
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
The UK continued to use its current drone fleet while progressing future armed drone programmes during the year. Here’s a round-up of some of the main news from 2016
UK drones in Iraq and Syria
British Reaper drones continued to operate over Iraq and Syria throughout the year as part of US-led Coalition to defeat ISIS. However we are not allowed to know exactly how many of Britain’s fleet are deployed there, or indeed, if any have been deployed elsewhere. In spring 2016 there was a noticeable decline in Reaper missions in Iraq and Syria which could indicate that some of the drones had been deployed elsewhere (perhaps for operations over Libya for example) although this remains speculation without further information. 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