Reprieve is a legal charity which seeks to uphold the rule of law and the rights of individuals around the world—with a specific focus on death penalty cases and abuses committed under the umbrella of the “War on Terror”. It has submitted written evidence to Parliament’s Defence Committee in this regard. It makes strong reference to Britain carrying out covert air strikes outside of declared warzones—primarily, in Pakistan, Somalia and the like. Reprieve’s investigations have included the role played by the UK in facilitating the covert strikes carried out by US bodies including the CIA and JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command). As part of its work, Reprieve also represents a number of relatives of civilians killed—in Reprieve’s view, illegally—in such covert strikes. You can read the submissions HERE.
Much of the evidence and commentary provided by Reprieve is about the existing overlap between UK and US drone activity, in terms of covert strikes in non-warzones providing an insight to the close military ties the two countries have. Another useful archive of information is provided by Chris Cole at DroneWarsUK HERE.
At this point is should be noted that much of Reprive’s report is littered with evidence provided by undisputed documentation published by WikiLeaks and in this, the British government have been exposed by the ‘War Diaries’ – hardly surprising then that Julian Assange is being treated the way he is by the state.
Reprieve’s submitted evidence highlights the UK’s apparent areas of overlap with the US drones programme, which risks implicating Britain in violations of international law of the most serious nature. However, what is less well known is another report by Reprieve, largely suppressed by the mainstream media – that of a state-sponsored assassination programme.
To the uninitiated, this is the stuff of conspiracy theories – usually reserved for American movies. And to some extent, readers may well accept that ‘drone-strikes’ are part of the technological advances of war. They may also take the attitude that the killing of the disaffected and dangerous extremists who join the likes of ISIS is fair game. It is not.
Delving deeper into the report something else emerges. First, there is the obvious legal question of extra-judicial killings. That the British state can murder anyone without even finding them guilty in a court case says something about its current legal trajectory.
“On September 7th, 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron came to Parliament and announced a “new departure” for Britain, a policy of killing individuals the Security Services and the military do not like, people placed on a list of individuals who the UK (acting along with the US and others) have identified and systematically plan to kill. The mere admission that there is a Kill List certainly should, indeed, have been a “departure” for a country that prides itself on decency. Unfortunately, it was not a “new departure” at all, as we had been doing it secretly for more than a decade.”
Then there is an issue of international laws and treaties, and not least the morality of some decisions because as we have since found out – “drones in Pakistan killed an average of nine innocent children for each “High-Value Target” singled out for death.”
Reprieve gave a sobering warning before what was to come next – “we must consider the evolution in law and morality concerning assassination: what was good enough for the Borgias in the late Middle Ages had already been condemned by the Seventeenth Century as barbaric. Indeed, even in World War Two, with the very existence of the nation under threat, the British eschewed assassinations as unwise as well as immoral: the one time the British did conspire to assassinate an individual Nazi (Reinhard Heydrich) the reprisals were horrific, and he was replaced in post by someone even worse.”
These revelations are evidenced based and startling in nature. Britain had been found to have conspired in a US-inspired Kill List soon after 9/11. Starting in 2002, working closely with the Americans, Britain had played a leading role in the euphemistic Joint Prioritized Effective List (JPEL), which even spilt over in the territory of allies who were not actually at war with anyone.
The pretext for the Kill List was terrorism. However, the JPEL soon saw British law enforcement desperate to use the invasion of Afghanistan to attack the Afghan-Pakistan narcotics trail. Thus, the targets included drug traffickers, with the “War on Terror” leaking into the “War on Drugs” even though Britain has a ‘Misuse of Drugs Act’ – not a war on drugs doctrine.
Britain is a nation with a collective, moral abhorrence for the death penalty even after a fair trial, especially for non-violent offenders. It is extraordinary, then, that the JPEL Kill List allowed for the execution of narcotics traffickers without a trial at all.
As evidence emerged, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) was sued by an Afghan man who lost five members of his family to an attempted assassination where flawed intelligence confused his father-in-law’s phone number for that of the intended target. SOCA appeared in a secret British court to deny any involvement in the JPEL targeting. This Report demonstrates that SOCA’s assertions in court were designed to divert attention from the very significant role SOCA (now the NCA) was playing in identifying narcotics traffickers for inclusion on the JPEL Kill List.
It has been said by an anonymous British serviceman, and it would appear from circumstantial evidence, that other people were included on the Kill List based on perceived criminality linked to mental disorders, such as paedophilia. This in itself is an extraordinary notion for a country that prides itself on opposing the use of the death penalty.
Some people who are slated for what may be instant death by a Hellfire missile are codenamed based on pornography stars, or prophylactics; some are cartoon characters; some are musicians and actors who might well object to having their names used on a Kill List. Importantly, some codenames reflect different slang for cannabis, suggesting that these individuals are on the list for their narcotics activities. And a series of the names are unique to Britain, suggesting that these persons were placed on the list by agents of the UK.
What is not known is that if narcotics traffickers and paedophiles are on a kill list then where is the line drawn? Who makes these decisions? And what legal powers do they have to add random criminals onto a list for assassination?
Members of the Conservative party rightly criticised the Blair administration for its complicity in the US torture programmes; if this government now seeks to drag the UK back to Medieval times with an assassination project, it is only right that it should be fully discussed with Parliament and the public. And like the abuse and illegality of Britain’s state surveillance architecture – it has not.
The Reprieve report asks salient questions. Is Britain sliding back into the abuse of “torture” or turning back the clock to detention without trial? The Kill List at any one time involves more than 600 people who are slated for “elimination” – who decides what?
Reprieve quiet rightly asserts that transparency from the Prime Minister has, at best, not been forthcoming:
“It is important that our elected MPs and the public understand the way in which the UK had been deeply involved in a “Kill List” long before the populist grandstanding by the Prime Minister on September 7th, 2015. The Prime Minister may have believed that the effort to kill notorious individuals like Reyaad Khan would ensure minimal opposition; but what would the British people think if they knew that there were hundreds of people on a “Kill List,” spilling over from terrorism to narcotics and other crimes, based on deeply flawed intelligence, resulting in numerous civilian casualties? What would they think if, in the words of some close to what is going on, for every person we target and kill, we create “40 to 60” new enemies, because we killed their innocent children and relatives in the process?”
According to Reprieve’s evidence, JPEL divided people into those who should be used for intelligence, those who should be captured, those who may be either captured or killed and those who should only be killed. The “Kill Only” tag is further corroborated by “a top [US] military expert” who said – “There’s a whole taxonomy of targets. Some people are approved for killing on sight.”
We should not forget that the “kill only” order is a patent violation of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.
Of the 669 targets, 657 were subject to a 90-day rule. In other words, the “authorisation” for “executing” whatever the directions are for the individual remained good for 90 days. However, 12 are exempt from the 90-day rule altogether. With these, the tautological “imminence” of the danger they pose – if killed – is extended indefinitely.
As for the accuracy of the intelligence used to add a name to the kill-list, Guantánamo Bay is perhaps the best “experiment” in the abject failure of decision making. Originally, all 779 prisoners were labelled the “worst of the worst” by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Wikileaks made public the findings in leaked documents, where it transpired that 92 per cent of prisoners were not even alleged, let alone proven, to have been ‘caught on the battlefield’. As of April 11, 2016, 720 (or 92.4%) have been released or cleared for release from Guantánamo. If on a kill-list, over 90 per cent of these detainees would have been murdered but would have been found innocent in a court of law.
As for Britain’s moral position, there is a fact that demonstrates the dramatic slide in decision making by those at the very top of government today. In 1806, when British Foreign Secretary Charles Fox was approached with a plan to assassinate Napoleon, Fox not only rejected the offer but arrested the would-be assassin and informed the French foreign minister of the plot. This latest revelation is a huge departure from an age some 200 years ago.
Britain’s illegal accord with the Americans is extremely dangerous for any democracy. The American government have been assassinating targeted individuals for years, and have been known to make assassination attempts on at least six foreign government leaders in just one region of South America since the 1960s.
President’s Ford, Carter and Reagan went on to reinforce laws against assassinations by the state and whilst this language is in force today, it appears to have been disregarded in more recent years.
Indeed, the UK was accused of adopting a ‘kill-list’ policy in dealing with the IRA, and the policy in operation at the time was found to have been illegal by the highest courts in the land.
After all, if America can legitimately kill its citizens in Yemen or Pakistan or wherever, why can’t Russia do the same, say in London? A few wonder if it already has, pointing to the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko or even the more recent poisonings of the Skripal’s in Salisbury.
Lastly, the story about GCHQ’s involvement in providing false intelligence that led to the murder of an innocent family is telling. They simply got the telephone numbers mixed up – five people died. In another example, a drone fired a Hellfire missile at a suspected weapons shipment. It turned out to be farm equipment.
The Wikileaks War Diaries demonstrates how people have been unilaterally removed from JPEL. In other words, even the creators of the list concede that some of the people they wished to kill actually, on reflection, appeared not to merit it.
This is the political and diplomatic trajectory of Britain because it is in collusion with America on such matters. Breaking international laws makes Britain weaker in every sense of the word and continues to raise its profile as a target for terrorists.
Read the full Reprieve report with all links and evidence HERE
Our IP Address: