MPs criticise UK Government over “dangerous precedent” on drones

November 27, 2014

Image of drones

A report published by Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee today [Thursday 27 November] criticises the UK Government for “set[ting] a dangerous precedent” in its public position on drones.

The Committee also calls on the UK to provide a written response to concerns expressed by a UN official over the lack of an international legal framework governing the use of drones.

The robotic aircraft have proved controversial because of their use by the CIA and other secretive US organisations to carry out strikes in countries where the US is not at war, such as Yemen and Pakistan – something which many believe to be at odds with international and domestic law.

Research by legal charity Reprieve indicates that the UK supports that campaign through the sharing of intelligence and the provision of infrastructure at US bases in Britain.  However, ministers have refused to take a public position on the legal or ethical implications, maintaining that the drone strikes are a matter only for the US and the country where they are taking place.

The FAC’s comments, contained in its report on The FCO’s human rights work in 2013, warn that, “Criticisms have been levelled at the UK for not supporting a resolution on the use of drones […] In some quarters, this is seen as indicating an inconsistency of approach. We believe [it] set[s] a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow suit,”

The MPs note that “There is a clearly a difference of opinion between the UK Government and the UN Special Rapporteur on whether there is international consensus on the legal parameters surrounding the use of drones,” and recommend “that the Government should acknowledge this and provide a written response detailing its points of disagreement with the UN Special Rapporteur’s findings to both Parliament and the UN Human Rights Council.”

Commenting, Kat Craig, legal director at Reprieve said: “This piles yet more pressure on the British Government to come clean over its involvement in the US’ secret drone war.  Parliament’s Foreign and Defence Committees, and former intelligence and military chiefs have now all said that the UK’s silence on this issue is no longer good enough.  There is overwhelming evidence that Britain supports secretive US strikes which lack both legal and democratic backing. Yet our political leaders are relying on legal ambiguity and obfuscation to effectively get away with murder.”


Notes to editors

The FAC’s report can be found here: