EuropeHuman Rights

UK drone pilots may face murder charges

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UK drone attacks could result in all those involved facing murder charges should the government fail to clarify its policies on targeted killings, a parliamentary committee has warned.

The officials who were behind decisions to conduct drone strikes as well as pilots, intelligence officers, and ministers could be exposed to “criminal prosecution for murder or complicity in murder,” according to a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR).

The Crown Prosecution Service is not likely to pursue such a case in the UK, however, other nations might take measures in this regard, for example, if their citizens were killed abroad.

“We owe it to all those involved in the chain of command for such uses of lethal force to provide them with absolute clarity about the circumstances in which they will have a defense against any possible future criminal prosecution, including those which might originate from outside the UK,” says the committee, chaired by the former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman.

The warning was part of a Tuesday report into the government’s policies on targeted killings with drones.

The committee decided to launch an inquiry after British Prime Minister David Cameron said that UK drones last August targeted and killed a 21-year-old Briton Reyaad Khan in Syria along with another Briton, Ruhul Amin, and a Belgian, Abu Ayman al-Belgiki, who were all travelling in the same vehicle.

In its report, the committee said that targeted killing “sounds uncomfortably close to assassination.”

UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has told the committee that the government would be justified in attacking “say, a training camp in Libya” if it could prevent “a direct and imminent threat to the United Kingdom”.

However, there are still questions unanswered about the legal basis for such killings.

The British spy services and special forces have been covertly helping the United States in its military campaign against what it calls al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.

The UK military is also suspected of having participated in the US drone operations in Pakistan, which have killed thousands of people.

British Special Forces are conducting previously unreported operations against Takfiri Daesh militants in Libya and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group in Somalia.

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