Campaign update – killing outside war zones

Image of a drone flying above a forest

by Bella Sankey, Deputy Director of Reprieve

A quick campaign update – does the British Government kill outside war zones or not? We all want to know.

So far this campaign has reached 612 out of 650 MPs, thanks to 3,253 of us sending messages. Thanks to everyone who has joined.

It’s a great start. The government quietly removed any mention of killing outside of warzones from official documents after just one MP asked about it. It clearly got their attention. Now, with so many MPs asking questions on our behalf, we hope to get closer to the truth.

An important request – please continue to forward any responses you get to us so our policy team can track our MP engagement and plan the next steps.

This campaign is about uncovering our country’s policy on a matter of life and death. For me, there are few better examples of why this is important than the story of Malik Jalal, which you can read below. It’s a reminder of why we are doing this, and what we want to make sure our government has no part in.

The peace activist who sleeps in the forest

Malik Jalal outside the Houses of Parliament, London

Malik Jalal has taken to the habit of spending nights in the forest that overlooks his village in North Waziristan, a remote region of Pakistan. He does this to stop his family being killed in a drone strike as they sleep.

One night, his six year old son, Hilal, followed him out to the forest. Hilal said he was scared of dying and frightened of the noise coming from the engines of the drones that circled the village at night. Malik Jalal tried to comfort his youngest son by telling him a lie. He said that drones wouldn’t target children, but Hilal refused to believe him. Hilal said he knew that US drone missiles had often killed children in the past.

The name ‘Malik’ is given as a term of respect for a local tribal elder. Malik Jalal is one of the leaders in his community and a prominent member of the North Waziristan Peace Committee, a group that tries to bring an end to conflict in the region.

Each of the four times the US government has tried to assassinate Malik Jalal, they have missed and killed dozens of other innocent people instead, including children. He has been told he is on America’s ‘Kill List’ because he has been “inciting” people against the drone strikes.

One of these times was in March 2011. A strike left forty innocent tribal elders dead as they gathered for a meeting. Malik Jalal and other elders were among the first on the scene. They spent hours picking up the pieces of their friends and rushing the injured to hospital as the smell of burning flesh and the wails of the bereaved filled the air.