The Court of Appeal has ruled that a Pakistani man whose father died in a US drone strike cannot hold British authorities responsible for the death because it would amount to “Britain condemning the United States”.
Noor Khan, 28, lost his father in the strike on a local council meeting in North Waziristan in March 2011. The council had been meeting to discuss a dispute over local mining rights.
Mr Khan claimed the UK was complicit in the killing as Britain’s spy services had shared intelligence with the US for use in the attack as well as other drone strikes in Pakistan.
The court of appeal on Monday ruled in favour of lawyers of the British government who claimed that “a finding by our court that the notional UK operator of a drone bomb which caused a death was guilty of murder would inevitably be understood by the US as a comdemnation of the US.”
Judges said that considernig whether staff at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had passed on “locational intelligence” to the CIA before the attack would amount to “sitting in judgment” on the United States.
The court would have to find the CIA guilty of a war crime before it could consider whether GCHQ had been involved, the court said.
Responding to the ruling, Kat Craig, legal director of the human rights charity Reprieve, which is supporting Khan, told the Guardian: “It is shameful that the risk of embarrassing the US has trumped British justice in this case.
“It now appears that the UK government can get away with murder, provided it is committed alongside an ally who may be sensitive to public criticism.
It is a sad day when the rights of civilian victims of drone strikes take second place to the PR concerns of the US government.”
Mr Khan told the Guardian that he was disappointed by the ruling as he thought “Britain stood for justice”.
“I am still determined to get answers from the UK government about the part they have played in the death of my father.
The CIA’s drone programme has not only killed hundreds of civilians, but is turning people in Pakistan against the US and its allies”, he added.