A UK court has heard that fear of damaging its relationship with the US must not be used as an excuse for hiding the truth of British involvement in the CIA’s covert drone war.
The argument was heard in the Court of Appeal in the case of Noor Khan, who is asking the Foreign Secretary to clarify the Government’s position on sharing intelligence for use in CIA strikes, and challenging the lawfulness of such activities.
Mr Khan, from Datta Khel, North Waziristan, lost his father, Malik Daud Khan, in a March 2011 strike which hit a local meeting of elders which had gathered to resolve a chromite mining dispute. Mr Khan is being assisted by human rights charity Reprieve and lawyers Leigh Day in bringing a judicial review of the UK Government’s reported policy of providing support for the CIA’s drone campaign.
The case comes as the Islamabad-based charity Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) files a contempt petition in the Peshawar High Court (PHC) against the Pakistan Government for failing to implement a court decision handed down in May 2013 which demanded that the Government of Pakistan take all possible steps to end US drone strikes.
The case was initially filed by FFR, a sister organisation of Reprieve, on behalf of the families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a tribal jirga. In response to the petition, the PHC had declared CIA strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to constitute a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and a breach of international law. The court had ordered the Pakistani Government to take immediate action to stop future attacks including if need be stopping drones with force.
Kat Craig, Reprieve’s Legal Director, said: “Drones that killed Noor Khan’s father – and have killed hundreds more civilians in Pakistan – are the US’ weapon of choice in their illegal ‘war on terror’. The UK government is wilfully refusing to reveal whether and how they facilitate this secret war. Fear that our friends in the US will be annoyed is nothing like an acceptable excuse for continuing to keep these details under wraps.”
Commenting on the petition in the Pakistan High Court, Shahzad Akbar, Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and Reprieve fellow, said: ‘After the orders of the PHC and election of a new government, victims of drone strikes were hopeful for the implementation of their fundamental right to life. Unfortunately the new government seems to be a continuation of the old system which does not adhere to the rule of law and therefore it is up to the Court to gets its orders implemented.’
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / email@example.com
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