Questions 'remain unanswered' over lethal drone strikes.
Byline: DAVID WILLIAMSON Political Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
THE UK Government has been accused of ducking key questions about the use of lethal drone strikes.
A major report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) was published earlier this year in the wake of the killing of former Cardiff schoolboy Reyaad Khan in an anti-terrorist drone strike in Syria.
The MPs and peers were concerned that "uncertainty" about the legal framework for targeted killings could leave "frontline intelligence and service personnel" in "considerable doubt about whether what they are being asked to do is lawful" and both they and ministers could be exposed "to the risk of criminal prosecution for murder or complicity in murder".
The Government has now responded but the JCHR is disappointed.
It warns there are "important questions about human rights law" which "remain unanswered".
Stressing the need for clarity, it states: "What law applies to such uses of lethal force is one of the most important questions raised by the committee's inquiry and report, and the committee expected the Government to make its position clear on this central issue."
The Government says it "does not have a 'policy on targeted killing'" but has a "policy to defend the UK and its citizens against threats to their security".
Defending the decision to kill Reyaad Khan in August last year, the Government states: "[This] action was the only feasible means of effectively disrupting the attacks planned and directed by Reyaad Khan due to the prevailing circumstances in Syria. There was no realistic prospect that Khan would travel outside Syria so that other means of disruption could be attempted.
"Nor was there any prospect of the Syrian Government being willing or able to deal with the imminent threat he posed."
It states there was a "process in place" to assess whether he still posed an imminent threat and this was "reviewed on a regular basis". The Government adds that it is "cooperating fully" with the Intelligence and Security Committee's inquiry into the strike.
It describes the committee's push for "clarification of the Government's position in relation to the use of force outside of armed conflicts" as "hypothetical".
Harriet Harman, the former Labour deputy leader who chairs the JCHR, said: "Parliament is entitled to expect an explanation of the Government's view of the legal justification for such a use of force before it happens, rather than wait until it does."
Reyaad Khan was killed in August 2015