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UK High Court block action over US drone attacks in Pakistan

Last Updated: Friday, December 21, 2012 - 18:18

London: The British High Court on Friday rejected a Pakistani man`s bid to force the UK government to reveal if it is providing intelligence to the CIA for its covert drone strikes against al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan.

Noor Khan, a 27-year-old whose father died in a US drone strike in Pakistan, said the UK could be committing a war crime by helping CIA, the US intelligence agency to identify targets.

The British government neither confirms nor denies any role in assisting with operations against al Qaeda.

The court said it could not force the government to reveal its policy.
Lord Justice Alan Moses said that oversight of intelligence arrangements in this case was for Parliament, not the court, the BBC reported.

"The real aim is to persuade this court to make a public pronouncement designed to condemn the activities of the United States in North Waziristan, as a step in persuading them to halt such activity," he said.

The judge said lawyer Martin Chamberlain, who represented Khan in court, "knows he could not obtain permission overtly for such a purpose".

He added: "His stimulating arguments have been an attempt to shroud that purpose in a more acceptable veil."

The US drone strikes have killed several senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan`s restive tribal belt over the past few years.

Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in the US military raid in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in May last year.

Khan`s father was one of 50 people killed last year when a US drone bombed a meeting near the border with Afghanistan.

The survivors and families said it was a council of elders convened to settle a local commercial dispute, not a gathering of al Qaeda chiefs.

In his High Court action, Khan`s lawyers argued that the UK`s secret communications centre, GCHQ, could be providing "locational intelligence" to the CIA which helps it to identify targets for drone strikes.

The lawyers did not ask the court to rule if the US strikes were lawful. But they said British officials could be secondary parties to murder or guilty of war crimes if they were providing critical information to the US.

Khan`s community was living in a constant state of fear, the court heard, because they could regularly hear drones passing over head and they did not know if they were about to be attacked again.

Lawyers for the UK government argued that the High Court could not make any ruling on the case because sensitive information about the intelligence relationship between the allies could not be made public.

Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama confirmed the existence of the drone strike operations over Pakistan and said they were essential in the fight against al Qaeda.


First Published: Friday, December 21, 2012 - 18:17
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