International Law

After UK kills citizens in Syria in drone strike, critics question policy

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Four years after a U.S. killing of an American-born cleric in Yemen through a drone strike sparked concern and criticism, the U.K. is facing similar questions about the drone-strike deaths last month of two British men in Syria.

The target, Reynaad Khan, 21, was said to be an Islamic State jihadist planning to attack the U.K. Two other fighters also died in the Aug. 21 attack. It was the first time the U.K has ever used a drone to kill a citizen in a country with which it was not at war, the BBC News reports.

Like U.S. slaying of citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was linked to plots and attacks in multiple locations, the fatal attack on Khan was justified by Prime Minister David Cameron as a lawful act of self-defense. Both countries pointed to Article 51 of the United Nations charter, which recognizes an “inherent right of self-defense,” BBC News Magazine reports.

Cameron said that while he did not make the decision lightly, “there was a terrorist directing murder on our streets, and no other means to stop him.”

Critics questioned the lack of transparency in the decision-making process and called for an independent review of the British government’s conduct.

“Make no mistake—what we are seeing is the failed US model of secret strikes being copied wholesale by the British government,” said Kat Craig of the human rights group Reprieve. She said the unmanned the air strike was “deeply worrying”.

Related coverage:

Telegraph: “British Isil fighters: everything we know about the three dead Britons”

See also:

ABA Journal: “Uneasy Targets: How Justifying the Killing of Terrorists Has Become a Major Policy Debate” “Secret Justice Department Memo Authorized Killing of Al-Awlaki; ACLU Objects” “‘Lawful conduct of war’ analysis in DOJ memo justified killing of US citizen in Yemen”

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