Britain’s role in supplying information to an American military “kill list” in Afghanistan is being subjected to legal challenge amid growing international concern over targeted strikes against suspected insurgents and drug traffickers.
An Afghan man who lost five relatives in a missile strike started proceedings against the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Ministry of Defence demanding to know details of the UK’s participation “in the compilation, review and execution of the list and what form it takes”.
Legal letters sent to Soca and the MoD state the involvement of UK officials in these decisions “may give rise to criminal offences and thus be unlawful”. They say Britain’s contribution raises several concerns, particularly in cases where international humanitarian laws protecting civilians and non-combatants may have been broken.
…The legal challenge has been brought by an Afghan who believes his relatives were unlawfully killed in a case of mistaken identity during one “kill list” operation. A bank worker in Kabul, Habib Rahman lost two brothers, two uncles and his father-in-law in a US missile attack on their cars on 2 September 2010. They had been helping another member of the family who had been campaigning in Takhar province in northern Afghanistan in the runup to the country’s parliamentary elections. In total, 10 Afghans were killed and several others injured.
Rahman says most of those who died were election workers. But the attack was praised by Nato’s International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) which said the target had been a man in the convoy called Zabet Amanullah. The US accused him of being a Taliban commander and member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and said the people who had been travelling with him had been insurgents.
A detailed study of the incident by the research group Afghanistan Analysts Network contradicted the official account, saying Isaf wrongly thought Amanullah was an alias for a Taliban commander called Muhammad Amin. The real Amin was tracked down after the incident and is still alive, said the study’s author, Kate Clark. “Even now, there does not seem to be any acknowledgment within the military that they may have got the wrong man,” she said. “It is really very bizarre. They think Amin and Amanullah are one and the same.”
The letters are a first step towards seeking a judicial review in the British courts which might well be expected to rule that the US “kill list” is in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, which say that persons taking no active part in hostilities are protected from “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds”. I fully expect the UK government to refuse to co-operate with the courts by revealing intelligence co-operation with the U.S. however, even in a closed court. The last time such revelations became likely, Obama threatened to shut down all intelligence sharing between the two nations in order to strongarm the British government into defying it’s own judicial system.