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Bowing to 'US PR Concerns,' UK Court Blocks Lawsuit for Drone Death


January 21, 2014
Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams & Owen Bowcott / The Guardian

A UK court has blocked a lawsuit against the British government for participating in US drone strikes on the grounds the case would make the US look bad. Twenty-eight-year-old Noor Khan sought accountability from the UK intelligence agency GCHQ for its role in a CIA drone strike on a local council meeting in North Waziristan that killed his father, a local elder, in 2011.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/01/20-1


Bowing to 'US PR Concerns,' UK Court Blocks Lawsuit for Drone Death
Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams

"I used to think that Britain stood for justice, but now it seems as though the Government has put itself above the law."
-- Noor Khan


LONDON (January 20, 2014) -- A UK court has blocked a lawsuit against the British government for participating in US drone strikes on the grounds the case would make the US look bad.

Twenty-eight-year-old Noor Khan sought accountability from the UK intelligence agency GCHQ for its role in a CIA drone strike on a local council meeting in North Waziristan that killed his father, a local elder, in 2011.

Khan brought the case against the UK government upon evidence that GCHQ has been aiding the CIA's covert drone war in Pakistan.

According to human rights charity Reprieve, Khan's lawyers charged that the UK's participation in the drone campaign is illegal and could result in murder charges for UK officials.

Yet Khan was told by London's Court of Appeal on Monday that the case cannot continue because "the court would have to find the CIA implicitly guilty of a war crime before it could consider whether GCHQ had been involved," according to a Guardian summary of the ruling.

"[A] finding by our court that the notional UK operator of a drone bomb which caused a death was guilty of murder would inevitably be understood … by the US as a condemnation of the US," UK government lawyers had argued.

Yet Khan said he will not be deterred from "getting answers from the UK" for their role in the death of his father. "I used to think that Britain stood for justice, but now it seems as though the Government has put itself above the law," he stated.

"The CIA's drone program has not only killed hundreds of civilians, but is turning people in Pakistan against the US and its allies," he added. "This is why I was so upset to hear that Britain is helping the CIA to carry out these killings, and even more upset when the government refused to respond to my questions."

Kat Craig, legal director at Reprieve, declared, "It is a sad day when the rights of civilian victims of drone strikes take second place to the PR concerns of the US Government.”



Pakistan Drone Strike Relative Loses GCHQ Court Case
Owen Bowcott / The Guardian

LONDON (January 20, 2014) -- A Pakistani man whose father died in a drone strike has failed in an attempt to hold British officials responsible for the killing.

The court of appeal ruled on Monday that considering whether GCHQ staff had passed on "locational intelligence" to the CIA before the attack in 2011 would involve "sitting in judgment" on the US.

Noor Khan, 28, lost his father, a tribal elder, to the strike on a local council meeting in North Waziristan, which had gathered to resolve a mining dispute.

"However the claims are presented, they involve serious criticisms of the acts of a foreign state," the three court of appeal judges concluded. "It is only in certain established circumstances that our courts will exceptionally sit in judgment of such acts. There are no such exceptional circumstances here."

The court would have to find the CIA implicitly guilty of a war crime before it could consider whether GCHQ had been involved, the court said.

Lawyers for the UK government had argued that the case should not proceed as "a finding by our court that the notional UK operator of a drone bomb which caused a death was guilty of murder would inevitably be understood … by the US as a condemnation of the US."

Responding to the ruling, Kat Craig, legal director of the human rights charity Reprieve, which is supporting Khan, said: "It is shameful that the risk of embarrassing the US has trumped British justice in this case.

"It now appears that the UK government can get away with murder, provided it is committed alongside an ally who may be sensitive to public criticism. It is a sad day when the rights of civilian victims of drone strikes take second place to the PR concerns of the US government."

Khan said: "I used to think that Britain stood for justice, but now it seems as though the government has put itself above the law.

"However, I am still determined to get answers from the UK government about the part they have played in the death of my father. The CIA's drone programme has not only killed hundreds of civilians, but is turning people in Pakistan against the US and its allies.

"This is why I was so upset to hear that Britain is helping the CIA to carry out these killings, and even more upset when the government refused to respond to my questions."

Rosa Curling from Leigh Day, which is representing Khan, said: "The court's decision not to determine the lawfulness of our government's involvement in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, deadly strikes which have killed many civilians over recent years including my client's father, simply to spare the US government embarrassment is not only disappointing but also deeply worrying.

"The courts must have jurisdiction over the legality of our government's action irrespective of whether they act alongside a foreign state or not."

Owen Bowcott is the legal affairs correspondent for The Guardian.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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