UK Government’s Response on Drone Strikes Policy Leaves British Parliament Wanting More

A heads-up to Just Security readers: The UK government has responded to the British Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) report on the use of drones for targeted killings, which the committee launched in response to the Royal Air Force’s August 2015 drone strike in Syria against UK citizen and alleged Islamic State member Reyaad Khan.

The bottom line: the JCHR says the government “ducked” one of the most important questions in its report. The committee is “disappointed that the Government has refused to clarify its position in relation to the use of lethal force outside armed conflict on the basis that this is ‘hypothetical.’” (For one view relevant to that topic, see Michael J. Adams and Ryan Goodman’s analysis.)

The government’s response also left the committee wanting more explanation in other areas, including whether the government maintains its position that the use of drones outside of armed conflict must be in accordance with international human rights law.

But the committee noted the government has provided clarification on some issues, including its understanding of the thresholds that need to be met for a threat to be considered “imminent” and use of force justified.

When the committee’s report first came out in May, Anthony Dworkin, a senior policy fellow who leads the European Council on Foreign Relations’ work on human rights, democracy, and justice, described the U.K. process, in a Just Security post, as “one of the most significant efforts yet made by a European parliament to define a position on the use of lethal force against terrorists.

You can find the complete comments from the Committee on the government’s response here.

And the government’s response can be read in full here.

Watch this space. Just Security editor Shaheed Fatima, QC will be weighing in soon on these new developments. 

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