Jennifer Gibson writes:
‘Confusion and uncertainty,’ ‘lack of clarity,’ ‘confusing explanations.’
These are terms that appear again and again in a Parliamentary report grappling with the Government’s murky drone policy.
Given that the use of armed, robotic aircraft to carry out targeted killings overseas is a matter of life or death, the conclusions of the (JCHR) are alarming to say the least.
The influential cross-party parliamentary committee released its months-long inquiry into the UK’s use of drone strikes outside of declared warzones
Not only did the committee find the Government’s position on such strikes ‘confused and confusing’, it argued the Government had ‘misunderst[ood] … the legal frameworks that apply’.
As a result, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet had military personnel and Ministers ‘to the risk of criminal prosecution for murder.’
The JCHR’s inquiry was sparked by the last September that the UK had carried out a ‘targeted strike’ in a ‘country where we are not involved in a war.’
The Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, said they would not hesitate to do it again ‘anywhere else’ they felt it necessary. David Cameron called it ‘a new departure’ for the country.
This ‘new departure’ had all the hallmarks of the highly controversial, US drone programme
Undertaken by covert agencies such as the CIA, this campaign has seen over 500 strikes in countries – such as Pakistan and Yemen – where the US is not at war.
While the US has refused to answer even basic questions about its programme, independent estimates by organisations, such as the
But in many ways, this kind of unaccountable shadow war is nothing new for the British Government.
Indeed, a little-noticed section of the JCHR’s report detailed the
However, attempts to get clarity over the UK’s role have been frustrated by a veil of secrecy and by the government.
A Vice News investigationfound that despite denials, the UK had been intimately involved in tracking and adding targets to the US Kill List in Yemen for years
In order to avoid detection, the Ministry of Defence had hidden its involvement from Parliament by ‘seconding’ its personnel to MI6.
As an intelligence agency, MI6 is exempt from information disclosure rules.
But the complicity hasn’t just been in Yemen.
In 2010 an unnamed source from GCHQ Sunday Times
Such cooperation, as the JCHR noted, raises the troubling possibility that UK officials have already been complicit in murder, especially when the US standards for taking a strike at times have amounted to little more than those being struck having ‘ill intent in their minds’.
Given the US’s own generals are now calling the US drone programme a ‘‘ than[it is] removing from the battlefield,’ the JCHR’s report is a serious and much needed wake up call.
Before the UK goes any further down the slippery slope of global kill lists, it needs to be transparent about just how far it’s already gone.
Ministers must drop the tactics of confusion and obfuscation, and come clean with Parliament and the public.