Saturday, 14 November 2015

Reported killing of Mohammed Emwazi (Jihadi John)

The Prime Minister (Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP) reported that a United States of America "drone" attack may well have killed the terrorist Mohammed Emwazi - the Islamic State "executioner" known as Jihadi John - Number 10 Prime Minister's Statement.  British involvement is crystal clear from the statement in which Mr Cameron said - "... We have been working, with the United States, literally around the clock to track him down ... this was a combined effort ... and the contribution of both our countries was essential."

The Leader of the Opposition (Rt. Hon. Jeremy Corbyn MP) acknowledged that Emwazi had been held to account for his "callous and brutal crimes" but added that capturing the terrorist and holding him to account in court would have been a better way of revenging his actions, which have included the beheading of British nationals in Islamic State controlled parts of Syria and Iraq - The Independent 13th November 2015

The former Attorney-General
- Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP - said on BBC Radio 4 (World at One) that he believed the attack on Emwazi had a sound legal basis.  Grieve said, "... it's always better if somebody is guilty of a serious crime that they should be brought to justice through the ordinary legal process but in this case it was clearly impossible for that to happen."

Perhaps there is not really all that much difference between Mr Corbyn and Mr Grieve on this matter though it is unlikely that Mr Corbyn's political opponents will acknowledge such a possibility.  It appears that both would have preferred due legal process to be applied to Emwazi but Grieve was more focused on the impracticality of achieving that in the present circumstances.

A key legal issue over the use of drones for targeted killings is that the "sound legal basis" for governmental action (or involvement in the actions of the USA) needs to be clearly stated.  "Self-defence" usually appears in most of the Ministerial formulations about this.

In a previous post (8th September) - View from the North: A killing in Syria - the possible legal basis in relation to drone strikes was considered with the tentative conclusion that the killing of Reyaad Khan (and others) may have been lawful BUT everything would depend on ALL the detailed facts.  National security prevents us knowing those facts.  In a further post (15th September) - a number of serious concerns were considered - Death by Drone: Concerns and Questions and such concerns ought to be squarely addressed by a government committed to the rule of law (including, one hopes, international law - see Concern over amended Ministerial Code).  After all, the concerns are not those expressed by a mere law blogger but were set out in official reports to the United Nations.

Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights (Chaired by the Rt. Hon. Harriet Harman MP) has decided to conduct an inquiry into the government's policy of using drones for targeted killings - Committee Letter to Attorney-General 4th November 2015  The inquiry seeks to examine the policy and its legal basis, the decision-making process and accountability.

Dominic Grieve has also indicated that Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (which he Chairs) may extend its inquiry into the earlier drone strike in Syria to cover the Emwazi operation.

In September 2014 Parliament voted to support offensive military action in Iraq. However, that vote did not extend to offensive operations in Syria - see UK Parliament - ISIS/Daesh: The military response in Iraq and Syria

Please also see the piece by Max Hastings in Daily Mail Saturday 14th November -I say good riddance but admit to qualms

Hastings points out - " ... while today only the US, Britain and Israel own effective drone capabilities, it is only a matter of time before others acquire them ...." 

Some of those qualms are ones that perhaps all sensible people should share ...!

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