UK court refuses to hear drone strike case

[JURIST] The High Court of England and Wales has refused to allow a legal challenge [judgment] to the possible role of the UK's spy agencies in aiding CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. Noor Khan, the plaintiff, lives in Miranshah, North Waziristan Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) [official website] of Pakistan. Khan's father was killed in a March 2011 drone strike in North Waziristan that killed at least 44 people when it hit a community council meeting that intelligence services targeted as a meeting place for militants. In filing his lawsuit [JURIST report], Khan sought information regarding the extent that the UK was aiding the US in drone efforts and for the court to evaluate if those strikes violate international war crimes laws. The court's decision was, in part, based on their reluctance to cast judgment upon the actions of the US:

The principle that the courts will not sit in judgment on the sovereign acts of a foreign state includes a prohibition against adjudication upon the "legality, validity or acceptability of such acts, either under domestic law or international law." The rationale for this principle, is, in part, founded upon the proposition that the attitude and approach of one country to the acts and conduct of another is a matter of high policy, crucially connected to the conduct of the relations between the two sovereign powers. To examine and sit in judgment on the conduct of another state would imperil relations between the states.
Khan said he plans to appeal [Guardian report]

Unmanned drone strikes have been a contentious legal issue, especially their use in Pakistan. In November, JURIST guest columnist Samar Warsi [professional profile] argued [JURIST comment] that drone attacks were counterproductive and hurt American attempts at foreign policy improvement. In August UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson said that the US government must allow an independent investigation [JURIST report] of the legality of its drone strike policy. In July the Pakistan Ambassador to the US called on the CIA to stop using drone strikes [JURIST report]. Earlier that month US lawmakers expressed concern over the use of drones within the US [JURIST report] at a hearing in the US House Committee on Homeland Security [official website]. Also in July the Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] and the ACLU filed a suit [JURIST report] challenging the US government's targeted killing of three US citizens in drone strikes. Commentators have suggested that the CIA's claim that there have been zero civilian casualties due to drone strikes needs to be seriously examined [JURIST op-ed].

 

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