UK pilots conducted strikes in Syria

July 17, 2015

British personnel have already conducted air strikes in Syria, despite the Government’s claim that there would be a vote in Parliament before any such action took place, new research by human rights organisation Reprieve has revealed.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Reprieve to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) found that UK personnel embedded with US and other forces “operating in Syrian airspace” “include pilots flying…Strike missions”.

Previously, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon had indicated that the House of Commons would have the final say before Britain expanded its programme of air strikes to Syria.

Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve said:

“Documents obtained by Reprieve indicate that UK personnel have already been involved in bombing missions over Syria for some time – making the current debate over whether Britain should carry out such strikes somewhat obsolete. It is alarming that Parliament and the public have been kept in the dark about this for so long.

“Yet more worrying is the fact that the UK seems to have turned over its personnel to the US wholesale, without the slightest idea as to what they are actually doing, and whether it is legal. We need an open and honest debate about UK involvement in Iraq and Syria. We can’t have that, though, until the UK comes clean about what actions its personnel are already undertaking.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8140.

2. The relevant extract from the FOI response from the MoD, received on 15 June 2015, is as follows:

UK military personnel embedded with the USA, French and Canadian armed forces have been authorised to deploy with their units to participate in coalition operations against ISIL. UK Embeds operate as if they were the host nation’s personnel, under that nation’s chain of command. These personnel include pilots flying ISR and Strike missions against ISIL targets using the equipment of those units. Of these three nations only the USA and Canada are operating in Syrian airspace.

The full text of the response is available here.