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November 7, 2013

UK refusing visas to Pakistani drone victims

National

November 7, 2013

LONDON: A leading human rights organisation campaigning to highlight atrocities of the drone strikes in Pakistan has alleged that the British government held back visa applications of three Pakistani drone strike victims who had been invited to attend a parliamentary meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on drones.
The Reprieve said that the applicants including Noor Khan, who is suing the UK over its role in intelligence-sharing with the CIA, Noor Behram and Kareem Khan, who had been invited to speak at a Parliamentary meeting on drones that was scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
Noor Khan has launched legal action over the British government’s refusal to come clean on its policy of providing intelligence to support the CIA’s covert drone war. It’s believed that the UK is fully supporting the drone campaign but publicly the government officials have been effusive.
The Reprieve said that Noor Khan was to be accompanied by Kareem Khan, whose son and brother were killed in a strike on news year’s eve 2009, and who along with his lawyers the Foundation for Fundamental Rights and Reprieve, is suing Jonathan Banks, the former CIA station chief in Pakistan, and John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel, for the murder of his son and brother. Noor Behram is a tribal area journalist who has covered the drone strikes extensively.
Reprieve’s Clemency Wells told The News in an interview that the visa applications were submitted through the British Embassy in Islamabad and “presumably are still with them”. She said that the three applicants haven’t been “outright refused but they haven’t been granted and the Parliamentary meeting was meant to be on Tuesday so they were not granted in time for the specific event for which they had been requested”.
She alleged that the UK government “is trying to silence voices of those critical of its counter-terrorism policy and role in the US’ covert drones programme”. She told The News that

the visa applications were fully completed. “The application was sponsored by MP Tom Watson, who chairs the APPG on drones, on behalf of the entire APPG (over 40 MPs),” she saidd, adding that the three men will consider further action depending on the outcome of their applications.
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s strategic director, said: “It is an unfortunate coincidence that David Cameron is refusing to grant a visa to the very same man who is suing his government over its role in the drone strike that killed his father. Just last week the Rehman family were able to tell their story to the US yet the UK seems unwilling to extend a similar courtesy to these three victims of the drone programme. The British government must reconsider and grant the men visas.”
MP Tom Watson said in a statement: “It’s very disappointing that visas have not been granted in time for the drone victims invited by the APPG on drones to speak today. Last week the Rehman family traveled to the US and testified to Congress about their grandmother who was killed by a CIA drone. The UK must allow Noor Khan and other survivors into the country so that we too can hear these lost voices.”

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