British Government Refuses to Rule Out UK Sending Drones to Bomb Yemen

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Email: donald.campbell[AT]reprieve.org.uk
clemency.wells[AT]reprieve.org.uk
Phone: +44 (0) 207 553 8140

British Government Refuses to Rule Out UK Sending Drones to Bomb Yemen

LONDON - UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has refused to rule out the possibility that Britain would join the US’ covert drone programme in Yemen, despite the fact that there is no declared war in the country.

Hammond’s comments were made while escorting a group of journalists around the RAF base at Waddington in Lincolnshire, from where UK Reaper drones are currently flown in Afghanistan. In response to a question about whether UK drones could be flown in Yemen, he said: "We have to pursue the terrorists whereever they take themselves … Wherever there's an ungoverned space there's a risk [of terrorist activity]."

Last week a US drone strike hit a wedding party in Yemen killing an estimated 15 people and injuring many more. The strike was described by a Yemeni official as having been a 'tragic mistake'. The strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have been criticised for violating international and domestic law and condemned by both the Yemeni and Pakistani parliaments.

Legal charity Reprieve - which represents civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen - is currently taking the UK government to court on behalf of Pakistani Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a March 2011 strike, alongside around 50 other people who had met to resolve a local dispute over chromite mining. Mr Khan is asking the UK to reveal its policy on intelligence sharing with the US for use in the CIA’s covert drone war. The government has so far refused to reveal this policy or to discuss how it is involved with US drone strikes.

Responding to the Defence Secretary's comments, Reprieve’s Legal Director Kat Craig, said:

“Philip Hammond will need to do a lot more than this latest charm offensive to convince the world that drones are clean and safe and nothing to be concerned about. He refused to rule out the British use of armed drones in Yemen, where just last week a US strike hit a wedding convoy killing at least 15 civilians. Is Mr Hammond now suggesting that UK drones might join US drones outside of declared warzones?”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Mr Hammond’s comments were printed in this Guardian article.

2. For further information about the case of Noor Khan, please see here.

3. For further details about the drone strike that hit a Yemeni wedding party, see here.

4. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk

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Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

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