[JURIST] The UK Royal Courts of Justice [official website] on Tuesday are scheduled to hear the lawsuit of a Pakistani citizen who sued the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office [official website] in order to discover the extent and lawfulness of UK government aid to US unmanned drone [JURIST news archive] strikes in Pakistan. Noor Khan, represented by Reprieve [advocacy website; press release], 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. Khan and his representatives are not seeking more information on that particular attack, simply the extent that the UK is aiding the US in drone efforts and for the court to evaluate if those strikes violate international war crimes laws:
As CIA and [Government Communications Headquarters] employees are civilians and not “combatants” they are not entitled to the benefit of immunity from ordinary criminal law … GCHQ employees who assist CIA employees to direct armed attacks in Pakistan are in principle liable under domestic criminal law as secondary parties to murder and that any policy which involves passing locational intelligence to the CIA for use in drone strikes in Pakistan is unlawful. Evidence suggests that drone strikes in Pakistan are being carried out in violation of international humanitarian law, because the individuals who are being targeted are not directly participating in hostilities and/or because the force used is neither necessary nor proportionate. This suggests that there is also a significant risk that GCHQ officers may be guilty of conduct ancillary to crimes against humanity and/or war crimes, both of which are statutory offences under the International Criminal Court Act 2001.
A UK government spokesperson declined to comment [News International report] on whether the UK is involved in drone strikes in Pakistan, although the government will defend against the suit. Foreign Secretary William Hague [official profile] is expected to appear in court to represent the Foreign Office [politics.co.uk report].
Khan filed a similar suit [Business Insider report] last month in the High Court of the Peshawar [official website] seeking criminal action against perpetrators of the drone strike that killed his father. Unmanned drone strikes have been a contentious legal issue. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] heard arguments [JURIST report] in September on whether to grant a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [5 USC § 552] request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] to obtain information from the CIA [official website] on its use of unmanned Predator drones. 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].