Former soldier-turned-Corbynite MP to head Parliament’s drones committee

Former soldier-turned-Corbynite MP to head Parliament’s drones committee
Afghanistan veteran and pro-Corbyn Labour MP Clive Lewis has been elected to head the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on unmanned warfare, but can he hold Britain’s secret wars to account?

Lewis’ election to the interest group, which was founded in 2012 to examine the rise of unmanned warfare, puts the former reserve infantry officer in a position to lead scrutiny of remotely-piloted military operations.

The MP, who served in Afghanistan, where drones have been widely used and proven highly controversial, has long called for more oversight. Earlier in 2017, when already a member of the APPG’s panel, he co-signed a letter calling for a government report into the drone killing of British citizen and jihadist Reyaad Khan in Syria to be released.

The strike, which was ordered by David Cameron, was claimed by the then-PM to have been “entirely lawful.” Yet the Khan attack was said by critics to have been nothing less than an extrajudicial execution without trial of a UK national.

The PM must now make a clear commitment to return to parliament at the earliest opportunity every time the government carries out drone strikes without approval,” Lewis told the Guardian at the time.

We need an urgent debate about the rules and accountability for ‘kill list’ strikes, both by the UK and carried out jointly with foreign partners,” he said.

While Lewis is seen to be every bit as left-wing as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on domestic policies, he has consistently taken a more centrist line on Trident nuclear weapons and membership of NATO, once arguing that the latter was a reflection of real socialist values.

His appointment comes days after the Legal and Policy Director of the NGO Rights Watch published an article lamenting the closed, opaque nature of UK drone operations.

As drone use proliferates internationally, the need for transparency and oversight also increases,” Adriana Edmeades Jones wrote for the Just Security think tank website.

But the failure of the US and UK governments to provide regular reliable information on their participation in drone warfare, or to explain how their actions (both as principal and accessory) conform with their legal obligations, means that we can have no confidence that either country is acting lawfully.

That is plainly unacceptable,” she concluded.