Syria drone strikes: ‘Pre-authorized targeted killings’ face legal challenge

British Prime Minister David Cameron © Francois Lenoir
Legal action will be brought against Prime Minister David Cameron after he revealed an RAF drone was used to kill two British militants fighting for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria. The attack went ahead despite parliament voting against strikes in 2013.

The Prime Minister disclosed the nature of the strikes in September, claiming they had been carried out as an “act of self-defense” and that he had sought parliament’s permission to kill the militants.

Reyaad Khan and Rahul Amin both died, along with another jihadist, who was not of British origin.

Now Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jones are working with human rights charity Reprieve to make the first steps toward a judicial review.

A pre-action letter to the Attorney General and the Defense Secretary states the government failed to publish its “targeted killing policy” which is in breach of international law.

The Raqqa strike, and the intention of the government to pre-authorize targeted killings in the future in countries where the UK is not at war, is of concern to the claimants and many others,” they wrote.

“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.”

The letter claims the way the government rationalized the attack has raised further questions about the legality of its military operations overseas.

It says the government claims the attack was justified due to “potential,” “direct,” “likely” or “imminent” threats to the UK.

Such a lack of clarity as to the test which is being applied by the government in deciding whether to pre-authorize 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 says.

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.”

The UK is currently taking part in US-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq against IS, but not in Syria.

However, the killing of Khan was justified, Cameron said, because he had been plotting “barbaric” attacks in Britain.

Cameron is expected to stage a second vote in the House of Commons to approve further action in the country, but will not do so until he is sure of victory after his embarrassing 2013 defeat.