UK Parliament’s Defence Committee Calls for “Greater Transparency” Over Drones

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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

UK Parliament’s Defence Committee Calls for “Greater Transparency” Over Drones

LONDON - The House of Commons Defence Committee has today called for “greater transparency” from the British Government over its reported involvement in the US programme of secret drone strikes.

In a report entitled ‘Remote Control: Remotely Piloted Air Systems – current and future UK use,’ the Committee recommends that there should be “greater transparency in relation to safeguards and limitations the UK Government has in place for the sharing of intelligence” in relation to targeted killings.

The Committee adds – in what appears to be a reference to the CIA’s programme of secret drone strikes in Pakistan – that “it is of vital importance that a clear distinction be drawn between the actions of UK Armed Forces operating remotely piloted air systems in Afghanistan and those of other States elsewhere.”

The Committee also calls on the Government to “engage actively in the debate” on legal questions around the use of drone strikes in counter-terrorism operations posed by UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson. Ministers have to date refused to comment on the use by the US of drone strikes against targets in countries with which they are not at war, which many consider to be in violation of international law.

Responding to the report Kat Craig, legal director at human rights charity Reprieve said:
“The Defence Committee is right to raise concerns over the lack of transparency around UK involvement in the US’s secret drone programme.

“A range of evidence indicates that the UK supports the secret strikes carried out by the CIA and others in violation of international and domestic law – through the sharing of intelligence and the provision of facilities at US bases on British soil.

“Yet British ministers, like their US counterparts, have refused to come clean with the public over the role our country plays. It is high time the secret drone programme – and Britain’s part in it – was brought out of the shadows.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. Among the committee’s key recommendations, under the heading ‘targeted killings,’ is the following:

“We acknowledge that over the last few years there has been a growing concern in relation to the sharing of intelligence with allies and the uses to which such data may contribute. While the issues raised by Reprieve stray beyond the terms of reference for our inquiry and indeed the remit of the Defence Committee, we do believe that there should be greater transparency in relation to safeguards and limitations the UK Government has in place for the sharing of intelligence. Matters concerning the activities of the intelligence services are more appropriately addressed by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC). We invite the ISC to consider in future work programmes the issues raised with us during this inquiry which fall within its remit.” (p6)

In its conclusions, the Committee states:

“We consider that it is of vital importance that a clear distinction be drawn between the actions of UK Armed Forces operating remotely piloted air systems in Afghanistan and those of other States elsewhere.” (p6)

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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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