Photo: AP/Schalk van Zuydam
A human rights group and a law firm are suing UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague over the alleged sharing of British intelligence that assisted U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, the BBC reports.The plaintiff in the case is Noor Khan, 27, whose father, a village elder, was killed in a drone strike that allegedly killed 40 people in March 2011 (figures cannot be verified because journalists aren’t allowed into the region by authorities).
The suit is being brought in the London High Court by the international charity Reprieve, and law firm Leigh Day and Co.
On its website, the firm claims that civilian staff at Britain’s electronic listening agency, GCHQ, could be liable as “secondary parties to murder” for providing “locational intelligence” to the CIA for its drone attack program. The problem with this is that GCHQ staff are not classified as “combatants”.
Richard Stein, the head of human rights at Leigh Day, said in a statement that Hague could have “misunderstood one or more of the principles of international law governing immunity for those involved in armed attacks on behalf of a state,” according to RFE/RL.
The Foreign Office said it did not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.
“What has the government got to hide? If they’re not supplying information as part of the CIA’s illegal drone war, why not tell us?” Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith said, the AP reports. Leigh Day said it has “credible, unchallenged evidence” that Hague “is operating a policy of passing intelligence to officials or agents of the U.S. Government” that he believes to be legal.
The lawyers want to establish what official UK policy is on assisting the U.S. in such cases. Drone attacks — strikes by pilotless U.S. aircraft — have become de rigeur in the anti-terrorism fight in Pakistan, but the local population considers it a breach of their sovereignty and the cause of frequent and numerous civilian deaths.
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