LONDON: A Pakistani national will start a legal challenge on Tuesday against the UK support for drone attacks inside the Pakistani territory, run by the CIA.
Noor Khan, 27, who lives in Miranshah, North Waziristan Agency, is taking British Foreign Secretary William Hague to the Royal Courts of Justice, asking him to clarify Britain’s position on sharing intelligence for use in CIA strike. Khan is challenging the lawfulness of drone strikes and Britain’s role in facilitating these attacks which have so far killed thousands of innocent people in indiscriminate attacks through unmanned drones.
Reprieve, a human rights and legal action charity, is helping Khan is his case with help from Leigh Day & Co solicitors. Noor Khan’s father Malik Daud Khan, a local Jirga member, was killed on 17 March 2011 in Datta Khel. The jirga had been called outdoors to settle a local dispute.
It has been widely reported that Britain’s intelligence services have provided information to the US in drone strikes inside Pakistan using robotic aircraft.
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said Noor Khan merely wishes to know what role the British intelligence services play in this game. “He is calling for the veil of secrecy around Britain’s drones’ policy to be lifted so that he can keep his community safe. We share his concerns about the lack of accountability, and the morality of the UK being dragged into an illegal attack on a country with whom we are not at war,” Kat said, adding drones terrorise communities and kill innocent civilians.
Rosa Curling of Leigh Day & Co said: “This case is about the legality of the UK government providing ‘locational intelligence’ to the US for use in drone strikes in Pakistan. An off-the-record GCHQ source stated to a number of media outlets that GCHQ assistance was being provided to the US for use in drone attacks and this assistance was ‘in accordance with the law.’ We have advised our client that this is incorrect. The secretary of state has misunderstood the law on this extremely important issue and a declaration from the court confirming the correct legal position as required as a matter of priority.”
Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve told The News that too often the UK blindly follows where the US leads. “It’s clear the UK knows we have caught them at it, as they are paying so many lawyers to try to keep it quiet. But, as Richard Nixon could tell them from his Watergate experiences, the cover-up is often more embarrassing than the crime. So the UK should just come clean, admit that it made a mistake, and apologise to the people of Pakistan. After all we’re not going to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the 800,000 citizens of Waziristan by committing crimes against them.”
Speaking to The News, a spokesperson at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that the counsel have been instructed to appear in court on Tuesday and Wednesday. “In accordance with normal practice for government litigation treasury solicitor are acting for the FCO in this case,” said the spokesperson.
When asked if Britain provides assistance to the CIA in its drone campaign against Pakistan, the spokesperson said: “It is the longstanding policy of successive governments not to comment on intelligence matters.”
Drone strikes which are carried out in violation of international humanitarian law are unpopular in Pakistan and have contributed in making America the most unpopular country not only for Pakistanis but in most of the Muslim and non-Muslim world.