Britain’s Extra Judicial Assassinations Bring Democracy Into Question

8th September 2015 / Editors Picks, United Kingdom

Propaganda takes many forms along with twists and turns depending on a narrative of convenience. This is none more demonstrated than by David Cameron and his government.

David Cameron’s U-Turn and subsequent statement that Britain will take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the course of this parliament was overshadowed by his announcement that an RAF drone had killed two British ISIL fighters in Syria in August in what can only been seen as extra judicial assassinations.

Cameron said that that Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin had been killed in a lawful act of ‘self-defence’ as they were planning and terrorist attacks in Britain. He stressed that this was a targeted action and that he would come back to the House of Commons to seek permission for more generalised action in Syria; the Commons voted against military action there in 2013.

It may be that bringing these two British citizens to a court to be charged with crimes against the state was not possible. It is just as likely that collating the evidence was just as hard. The intelligence agencies believed that they both posed a clear threat to UK security.

One has to contemplate, question, then interrogate the legality of extra judicial assassinations outside of wartime.

Just two weeks ago , whilst on a three day visit to Bangladesh, the International Development Minister of the UK Desmond Swayne said “Extrajudicial killings cannot be tolerated in a democratic country like Bangladesh”, stressing that all incidents regarding recent extrajudicial killings “should be investigated and the perpetrators should be brought to justice”. It should be noted his speech was made at the British High Commission in the capital.

David Cameron, take note – the narrative espoused by your own government is that extra judicial assassinations are illegal and the “perpetrators are brought to justice”.

The hypocrisy of the Tory government in Desmond Swayn’s speech is only amplified by its selective amnesia on the same subject. After all, Britain has done exactly the opposite to its own narrative with its long-distance killing without trial over Khan and Amin.

This particular attack raises an immediate issue, just as it has done in the US, over whether the killing of its citizens in such a way is lawful. It also raises a political question of whether David Cameron, in spite of a definitive parliamentary vote against military action in Syria two years ago, is slowly creeping towards taking the UK fully into the conflict irrespective of democratic principles.

We can see that David Cameron has some form on the subject of illegal state sponsored murder.

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Back in 2011 a Bangladeshi paramilitary unit received training from a British police that killed people in what human rights groups clearly stated were extra-judicial killings.

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) – condemned by human rights group as a “death squad” – ceased the killings briefly after the existence of the British training programme was disclosed in US diplomatic cables posted on the internet by WikiLeaks.

The leaked diplomatic cables showed that Washington is prevented by law from offering support to RAB because of its human rights abuses. RAB has admitted killing more than 600 people since its inception in 2004. Its use of torture has been documented by the UK government as well as human rights groups. The British government does not face the same legal restraints as the US government and therefore, seizing the opportunity, began offering training in late 2007.

And whilst David Cameron prepares to welcome Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – presumably now that all British weapons license restrictions have been lifted against Israel, he can continue to sell more weapons of death at the same time to a war-crimes state that condones apartheid with a nauseating history of genocide.

Britain also welcomes a man who actively promotes and has approved of “targeted killings”.  Israel claims these killings only of militants who were allegedly involved in carrying out or planning armed attacks against Israeli soldiers or civilians both within the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and in Israel proper.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza says that during the period September 2000 to March 2008, 500 Palestinians suspected of being involved in military resistance to the Israeli occupation were executed.

It just so happened that the so-called “collateral damage” done during these executions included 228 civilian bystanders — 77 of them children.

Britain’s support of extra-judicial state sponsored killings is also highlighted in its actions over Afghanistan and Iraq having been a major contributor to regime change where this activity is now a daily occurrence.

In a report last year by the Global Terrorism Index they focused on the three key factors spawning terrorism; High levels of hostility between different ethnic or religious groups, the use of state-sponsored violence such as extra-judicial killings and a high background level of violence from organised conflict or crime.

Summary executions and extra judicial killings in Iraq contributed to bringing the number of people murdered in just one month last year to a staggering total of at least 1,075, the UN said. Many of the weapons used will be British made.

There are many other countries where the British government supports such human rights abuses. For instance, Nigeria was also implicated by Amnesty International in extra-judicial killings on a large scale by security forces where weapons and security equipment was supplied by British arms manufacturers. US manufactures are banned from weapons sales due to human rights abuses – Britain is not so ethical in its approach to the death/profit ratio.

It has now been identified that as much as £6billion of weapons sold by Britain could end up in the hands of ISIS fighters such as the two just killed by a British drone that in the end only fuels yet more killing – and so the cycle continues.

In 2011, the then Foreign Secretary William Hague stated on Channel 4 News that it would have been better had Col Gaddafi not been killed once he was caught. “We would have preferred him to be able to face justice at the International Criminal Court or in a Libyan court for his crimes. We don’t approve of extra-judicial killings“, he said, amid reports that Col Gaddafi was shot after being captured alive.

This is obviously a narrative of convenience, not one of law or morals.

Todays Guardian headline – “Drone killing of British citizens in Syria marks major departure for UK”. The article continues; “The killing of two British citizens in a targeted drone strike in Syria marks a major departure for the UK. While killing its own citizens by missiles fired from drones is not new for the US, this is the first time such an attack has been carried out by Britain”.

The US has been carrying out drone attacks against its own citizens for more than a decade, the most controversial target of which was Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida preacher, in Yemen in 2011. He was killed by a US Hellfire missile fired by a drone controlled by the CIA. Barack Obama has since faced repeated questions about the constitutionality of such killings, with accusations that the US is engaged in extra judicial assassinations.

What many British citizens will be confused about is that the UK has no such constitution protecting individual citizens whatever the circumstances. They may have mistakenly thought extra judicial assassinations sanctioned and conducted by the United Kingdom government would have been illegal, but if not, at the very least immoral.

However, exactly the same examination of the question involved needs to be asked of David Cameron. Britain is not at war in Syria. David Cameron has been forbidden by parliament (and therefore by the electorate) to engage in Syria. Britain was not acting in self-defence. So why has David Cameron lied to parliament with aerial bombing campaigns in Syria, allowed British special forces “boots on the ground” who are actually fighting in a sovereign country without either domestic or formal international agreement and in addition, killing it’s own citizens without the need of justice via drone attacks.

A report by Democratic Audit found evidence where Britain appeared to have moved further away from its two benchmarks of representative democracy: control over political decision-making, and how fairly the system reflects the population it represents.

David Cameron has clearly demonstrated that when it comes to war mongering, political decision making and the wishes of citizens are not represented at all. Does that bring another question to the table; are we morally any better than failed states and despotic regimes that carry out these horrific crimes if we do not exercise proper restraint, democracy and the rule of law ourselves.

Graham Vanbergen TruePublica

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