April 26, 2017Drones International Security and Rule of Law Accountability and Access to Justice
Today, the Intelligence and Security Committee published its Report ‘UK Lethal Drone Strikes in Syria’. The Report expresses disappointment at the Government’s failure to disclose vital documents, which hindered the Committee’s investigation.
The Report investigates the UK’s targeted killing of Reyaad Khan, which was carried out in Syria in August 2015 without prior Parliamentary approval. The UK was not involved in an armed conflict in Syria at the time.
The Committee sought to investigate a series of drone strikes which killed UK nationals, but the then Prime Minister limited the scope of the Committee’s Inquiry to focus solely on the threat posed by Reyaad Khan.
The Report noted that ‘key’ documents were withheld from the Committee on the grounds that they were ‘not within the scope of the Inquiry set by the former Prime Minister’. The Committee concluded that the failure to provide these documents was ‘profoundly disappointing’ and ‘had a significant bearing on the conclusions..reached’.
The Chair of the ISC, the Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP, urged the Government to be ‘more transparent’. He stressed that proper oversight and scrutiny depends on primary evidence and ‘without sight of the actual documents provided to Ministers we cannot ourselves be sure – nor offer an assurance to Parliament or the public – that we have indeed been given the full facts surrounding the authorisation process for the lethal strike against Reyaad Khan’.
Yasmine Ahmed, Director of Rights Watch (UK), commented:
“By heavily curtailing the scope of the investigation, and then exploiting this narrowed remit to withhold crucial information, the Government effectively obstructed the functioning of the parliamentary committee charged with overseeing their actions. Given the gravity of what is at issue – our Government’s authority to kill in a country where it was not involved in an armed conflict – attempts to evade independent scrutiny are particularly concerning.”
The Committee acknowledged that the report is ‘heavily redacted’. They note that the Report was submitted to the Prime Minister on the 16th December 2016 to undergo the redaction process. The Government returned the report with requests for redactions on the 12th April 2017, and the Prime Minister called a General Election on 18th April 2017.
The Report states that the Committee would ‘consider, challenge and negotiate each redaction’, yet the only way the Report could be published before the dissolution of Parliament was for the Committee to agree to all the requests for redactions submitted and not seek to challenge them.
“The Government were sent the Report four months ago, yet gave the Committee a handful of days to review before Parliament was dissolved, leaving their hands tied. This sidestepping of the normal process raises deep concerns that the Report censors information which the public has a right to see, and the Government has no legitimate reason to hide.”
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