Press release and new report: Reprieve: Britain’s Kill List: Government must come clean 11.4.16


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Press release published by Reprieve Sunday 10 April 2016

The government has been operating a covert 'Kill List' since at least 2001 in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, research reveals today, despite denials of such a policy.


A new report from human rights organization Reprieve suggests that the government established a Kill List in October 2001 of individuals who were subsequently targeted for assassination by UK and US forces. The list included not only alleged militants, but also people who the government suspected were involved in drug trafficking. According to an anonymous UK serviceman, the list soon extended to include others.

Report: Britain's Kill List: official dissembling in the development of a list of people we want to kill and the need for a full and transparent investigation (pdf)

The policy has raised concerns over the use of tactics associated with the 'War on Terror' in counter-narcotics operations; UK officials are said to have lobbied the US for the right to assassinate those they suspected of drug trafficking between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and enlisted the support of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to do so.

The research suggests that Prime Minister David Cameron misled parliament on September 7th, 2015, when he said that the assassination of two British nationals in Syria was a “new departure” for the UK.

The Reprieve report comes after a Vice investigation last week showing that UK military personnel play a “critical” role in the US drone programme in Yemen, including taking part in so-called “hits”, “traingulat[ing]” intelligence for kill lists, preparing “target packages”, and participating in a “joint operations room” with US and Yemeni forces. Among the Yemeni civilians killed in strikes with UK involvement was Nasser Salim, a 19 year old student who was killed in May 2012. Nasser’s family is assisted by Reprieve.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) is scheduled to issue its own report on the UK use of drones for targeted killing soon. Reprieve is calling for an urgent review of the UK's policy dating back to 2001.

Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve, said: “For a country that loudly proclaims its opposition to the death penalty even after a fair trial, the hypocrisy is stunning: now we know that UK authorities are deeply involved in executing all kinds of people, including alleged drug dealers, without a trial at all. If democracy means anything at all, the Prime Minister must order a full and transparent inquiry into the UK Kill List, starting immediately.

“It is ironic that Colin Firth and Gavin Hood are staging the premiere of their latest film “Eye in the Sky” tomorrow, a fictional treatment of a UK Kill List. Sad to say, the truth is far more sordid than any fiction.”

Baroness Vivien Stern, Co-chair of the APPG on Drones, said: “The Reprieve and Vice investigations raise important questions about the involvement of the UK in targeted killing outside traditional battlespace - and knowledge and oversight of these matters in Parliament. Members will need to consider whether a new inquiry is needed, beyond the remit of the welcome JCHR inquiry into UK drone use.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 7792 351 660. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

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