A Pakistani man who tried to force the British government to reveal whether it provides intelligence for US drone strikes loses his high court bid but plans to appeal.
Noor Khan, 27, wanted the high court to examine whether the UK assisted with intelligence in a drone strike in northwest Pakistan in March 2011 that killed his father and, if so, whether any action might be liable for prosecution.
Mr Khan’s father was one of 50 people killed in 2011 when a US drone bombed a meeting near the border with Afghanistan.
His lawyers argued that intelligence officials could be committing war crimes by helping locate targets for US drones.
But high court judges on Friday rejected his legal challenge and said Mr Khan was shrouding his real goal: to have a court publicly condemn US activities in northwest Pakistan.
Mr Khan’s lawyer Rosa Curling said the ruling left her client with no choice but to appeal. “His claim raises very serious questions and issues about the UK’s involvement in the CIA drone attacks in Pakistan. His case seeks to determine the legality of intelligence sharing in relation to GCHQ assistance in CIA drone strikes,” Ms Curling told Channel 4 News.
“Those providing such information could be commiting serious criminal offences, including conspiracy to murder,” she said.
The British government has neither confirmed nor denied any role in assisting with drone operations and the judges said they could not force it to reveal its policy. Oversight of intelligence arrangements in the case was for parliament, not the court, Lord Justice Moses said.
While Britain operates its own unmanned drones in Afghanistan, those operations did not form part of Mr Khan’s case. The survivors of the 2011 drone strike said the attack hit a council of elders settling a commercial dispute, not a gathering of terrorist chiefs as reported.
The issue of CIA drones killing innocent civilians is also being pursued before the Peshawar high court in Pakistan, where Chief Justice Dost Muhammad has instructed the Pakistani government to share details of strikes, according to a statement by Mr Khan’s lawyers.
The suit in the Peshawar high court asks the Pakistani government to disclose any involvement in the drone strikes. The next hearing in this case is expected early next year.
Mr Khan’s lawyers did not ask the court to rule if US strikes were lawful but instead argued that British officials could be a party to murder or war crimes if they supplied intelligence to the US.
President Barack Obama has confirmed the existence of the drone operations over Pakistan in the fight against terror.