UK 'must reveal role in US kill list'
10 August 2012
An Afghan civilian is to take legal action against the MoD and Serious Organised Crime Agency in a bid to get them to reveal whether they provide intelligence to support a US 'kill list' of drone strike targets, it has been reported
Five of Habib Rahman's relatives were among 10 people killed in a missile strike on a group of cars in September 2010, and Rahman claims they had been helping a family member's election campaign at the time.
NATO said that Muhammad Amin, a Taliban commander, had been killed in the strike and that those travelling with him were "insurgents".
Legal letters, a precursor to a judicial review, have now been addressed to Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) director general Trevor Pearce and Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond on behalf of Rahman. They call for details of the UK's participation "in the compilation, review and execution of the list and what form it takes".
The letters also argue that drug traffickers who support insurgents are not legitimate targets and that any civilian deaths caused by the attacks are a breach of international law.
The letters suggest that the strikes, which the US has justified as 'acts of war' against enemy combatants, consider people close to the primary targets as 'legitimate targets' in their own right.
"The general practice of international forces in Afghanistan and the experience of our client suggest that proximity to a listed target is, on its own, sufficient for an individual to be considered a legitimate target for attack," the letters say. "Such a policy would be unlawful under the international humanitarian law principles."
The letters follow a report to the US Senate's committee on foreign relations which suggested that drug traffickers, insurgents and corrupt officials could be on the US "Joint Integrated Prioritised Target List", or 'kill list', and that the MoD and Soca, along with the US military and US Drug Enforcement Agency, were "linked" in relation to the system.
The fresh legal moves back up claims that the UK faces a 'wave' of new drone strike claims regarding its alleged involvement in the US drone attacks. The letters also follow reports in April that Noor Khan, a student whose father was killed in a suspected drone strike in Pakistan, is seeking a judicial review regarding the same issue.
Rosa Curling, of solicitors Leigh Day & Co, said that while it was not certain that UK intelligence had been used in developing the list it was important to know "whether the rule of law is being followed and that safeguards are in place to prevent what could be clear breaches of international law".
"Ensuring the UK government and its agencies are operating within their legal obligations could not be more important," she said. "Our client's case suggests the establishment and maintenance of the 'killing list' is not in line with the UK's duties under international humanitarian law. Our client lost five of his relatives in an attack by the international military forces as a result of this list. It is important that the Ministry of Defence and Soca provide us with the reassurances sought."
Soca and the MoD both insisted they operated "strictly within the bounds of international law".