Skip to main content

Legal challenge raised to UK drone strikes in Syria

Lawyers for two British politicians and a charity say UK government failed to draw up a 'targeted killing policy' or didn't publish it
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a press conference this month (AA)

Britain's government is facing a legal challenge on Thursday over its use of a drone to kill two British Islamic State (IS) group militants in Syria, even though it is not part of military action there.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced in a speech in the House of Commons this month that a British drone had killed two British members of the group and another unidentified militant in the IS stronghold of Raqqa in August.

It was the first such strike carried out by Britain in a country where it is not at war and prompted fierce criticism from human rights campaigners.

Now two leading members of Britain's Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jones, and legal rights charity Reprieve have said they are preparing to launch court action against the move.

Their lawyers claim that the government has either failed to draw up a "targeted killing policy" or failed to publish it, both of which are illegal.

"The Raqqa strike, and the intention of the government to pre-authorise targeted killings in the future in countries where the UK is not at war, is of concern to the claimants and many others," they said. 

"The concern is heightened by the lack of clarity about the circumstances in which the government reserves the right to kill British citizens outside of an armed conflict."

British forces are taking part in airstrikes against IS targets in Iraq, but not Syria after parliament voted for only limited participation in coalition strikes last year.

Cameron said the strike in Raqqa was an "act of self-defence" as one of the militants had been planning "barbaric" attacks in Britain and that the move was "entirely lawful".

He could be set to ask parliament to vote on extending Britain's role in the strikes to Syria after parliament returns from a recess on 12 October.