Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Image from Drone Campaign Network

Image from Drone Campaign Network

Legalised murder?

Hastings Against War have asked local residents to sign a Change petition to stop targeted armed drone killing and have circulated an article written by Chris Cole of the Drone Campaign Network. HOT’s Zelly Restorick reports – and considers the concept of killing.

Some questions to consider

Why is some murder legal – and other murder illegal? Is it a case of ‘our killing is okay and justified, but yours isn’t’?

Do all those who perpetuate violent methods – of whichever country, faith, religion, age or gender – believe: “We are on the side of good and righteousness and you – our enemy – are terrorists and evil”?

Is government authorised military killing still murder?

Why are some murders deemed justifiable and legal – and others not? Does it depend on who is doing the judging and defining?

To me, although we humans seem to see ourselves as a highly advanced species, I believe many of us are still in the playground. Surely it is time for us to take a quantum leap forward in our way of living and behaving?

Is killing another human being ‘murder’, however it is marketed, packaged and spun?

Chris Cole’s words

“The Drone Campaign Network is appalled by the British government using its armed drones to undertake the targeted killing of British citizen Reyaad Khan in Syria”, writes Chris Cole. “Many legal scholars and international law experts are arguing that this targeted killing goes beyond what the US is doing in Pakistan and elsewhere and that the scant legal argument put forward so far by the UK government raises many questions.

“The Drone Campaign Network shall be working with other peace and human rights groups to challenge the use of drones in this way. We have launched a petition calling on the government to stop using drones to carry out targeted killing and to explain publicly what it sees is the legal basis for such killing.”

The petition

In September 2015 Prime Minister David Cameron revealed to the House of Commons that the RAF had undertaken the targeted killing of British national, Reyaad Khan, in Syria using a British drone. This is the first time that British forces are known to have carried out a targeted killing outside of a United Nations sanctioned military intervention. Legal Scholars and international human rights organisations have professed profound shock at this development, but the British Defence Secretary has told the media that other British citizens may now be targeted in this way.

We the undersigned call on UK government to comply with international law and desist from drone targeted killings, give a detailed account of the legal basis for its targeted killing in Syria and commit to proper oversight and accountability for the use of its armed drones.

Serious questions about UK’s drone targeted killing

While it may be lawful in certain narrow circumstances to pre-emptively kill a suspect, the growing use of armed drones has hugely expanded the number of targeted killings by states that operate them – and international law in this area is quietly being eroded.

The targeted killing in Syria of British citizen Reyaad Khan by an RAF drone (followed three days later by the killing of Junaid Hussain by US forces in co-operation with the UK) has caused huge controversy amongst human rights groups and legal scholars. Prime Minster David Cameron told the House of Commons that the killing of the two men was legal as “it was necessary and proportionate for the individual self-defence of the UK.” However it was also suggested that the men were put on a target list earlier in the summer meaning that the killing in August was not in response to any imminent threat. Legal experts emphasise that to be lawful under the self-defence framework such action must be “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation”.

Further confusing the issue, in the House of Commons David Cameron told MPs that the strike “was not part of coalition military action against ISIL in Syria” while in a formal letter to the United Nations reporting the strike, the UK stated that its military actions in Syria was also “in the collective self-defence of Iraq,” an entirely new and different legal argument.

Transparency and accountability

While the legal arguments are complicated and confusing it is surely right that the government sets out clearly for the public and parliamentarians the legal basis for killing a British citizen in a country in which the UK is not at war and for which UN authority has not been granted. Note this is not the same as asking the PM to publish the formal legal advice it has received from the Attorney General, nor to publish intelligence about this particular strike.

The activities of ISIS are abhorrent and in many cases barbarous and there is a temptation to sweep aside international, European and domestic law and insist that terrorists are legitimate targets for swift execution. But that is the way of the mob. Our response to terrorism must not be to abandon the rule of law and embrace unthinking violence as that is just what the terrorists want. Instead we must recommit ourselves to act justly in refutation of the idea that such violence and terror can ever be legitimate.”

You can sign the Change petition here.

And download a copy of the petition here.

More information about the Drone Campaign Network here and Drone Wars UK here.

And about Hastings Against War here.

Posted 13:37 Tuesday, Sep 29, 2015 In: Campaigns


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  1. Zelly Restorick

    Dear DAR,
    Thank you for responding. I understand what you mean. I grew up in a family where everything was ‘before’, ‘during’ or ‘after’ the war – and some family members had survived through two wars. I’m aware of what you’re saying. However, I still think that killing is killing. Murder is murder. And I ponder about whether violence, force, punishment and killing can put an end to hatred in other humans – or does it just perpetuate the cycle?
    With the drones, I am aware that this technology is available throughout the world – and wonder how would I feel if drones were targeting me? If someone was in another country, using the military equivalent of computer game – and targeting me or someone I know, as our world views differ. Possibly my views would be interpreted as anarchic by someone somewhere – and unlike you, who emails a response – they would want to eliminate me.
    When I was involved in the BHLR peaceful protest, the police talked about anarchists and what is the next step? Being labelled a terrorist? It terrified me, to be honest… as all the power appeared to be on the other side. And I was simply disagreeing with a decision made by some other human beings, about a world we all inhabit.
    Anyway, DAR – I posed some questions to consider – and you have offered your answers.
    My answers or thoughts only represent me… I am not part of anyone’s army or gang or militia or group. I’m just an independent individual – and I certainly wouldn’t force my way of thinking onto anyone else, as that would be against the principles I’m endeavouring to live by in my life.
    I appreciate you taking the time to reply. Zelly

    Comment by Zelly Restorick — Thursday, Oct 1, 2015 @ 10:58

  2. DAR

    I seriously wonder what would have happened if the British people had adopted this viewpoint in 1939. This is Corbynopia. If you’re about to be hit by a charging rhino, asking it stop because it isn’t ethical and/or legal isn’t going to make it so. I don’t see how strategic defence is NECESSARILY “the way of the mob”.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Oct 1, 2015 @ 09:24

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