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David Cameron faces legal challenge over drone strike killing Britons in Syria

"This is a huge step, and at the very least the prime minister should come clean about his new kill policy."


THE USE of drones to kill UK citizens abroad is being legally challenged by two Green Party members of Parliament.

Earlier this month, David Cameron announced an RAF-operated drone had killed two Britons linked to so-called Islamic State in Syria, describing the action as an "act of self defence".

MP Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jones have now sought a judicial review of the policy, claiming that "targeted killing" is unlawful.

It is backed by campaigners Reprieve.

In what was the first targeted UK drone attack on a British citizen, Reyaad Khan, from Cardiff, and Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen were killed by a remotely piloted aircraft on 21 August in Raqqa, Syria.

Khan, the target of the strike, had been plotting "barbaric" attacks on UK soil, the prime minister told MPs in a statement.

He insisted the action was lawful despite Parliament not having authorised airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria.

He said the attorney general had been consulted and agreed there was a "clear legal basis" for the strike.

But Ms Lucas and Baroness Jones - the party's sole representatives in Parliament - say there has been a lack of parliamentary scrutiny or approval of the policy and argue there have been conflicting and partial accounts of the justification in statements.

In a letter to the Ministry of Defence and the attorney general's office, they argue that the government has either failed to formulate a policy or, if it has a policy, failed to publish it. Either eventuality, they argue, is unlawful.

"If any pre-authorised and targeted killing can be lawful, they must be carried out under a formulated and published Targeted Killing Policy which ensures transparency, clarity and accountability for such use of lethal force," the letter says.

The drone strike is expected to be the subject of an investigation by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the House of Commons, now chaired by former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Reprieve, an international human rights charity, said the government's justification of the strike effectively gave it "the power to kill anyone, anywhere in the world, without oversight or safeguards".

"This is a huge step, and at the very least the prime minister should come clean about his new kill policy," said its legal director Kat Craig.

The drone strikes have been backed by Conservative MPs, who said the individuals targeted posed a direct threat to national security.

But Labour has called for the attorney general's advice to be published, something ministers say there is no precedent for.

Statement by Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jones

The Raqqa strike, and the intention of the Government to pre-authorise targeted killings in the future in countries where the UK is not at war, is of concern to the claimants and many others.

The concern is heightened by the lack of clarity about the circumstances in which the Government reserves the right to kill British citizens outside of an armed conflict.

Such a lack of clarity as to the test which is being applied by the Government in deciding whether to pre-authorise the targeted killing of British nationals or individuals overseas raises real and serious concerns over the lawfulness of the Government's past and expected resort to the use of lethal force.

It is unclear what, if any, policies, procedures and/or safeguards are in place to ensure that this 'new departure' is only exercised in accordance with domestic and international law.

Source: BBC

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