The authors argue in the opening commentary that the “revelations in this report demonstrate that parliament has been misled” and that current scope of investigation into the issue is too “narrow.”
Published Sunday, the report makes a number of startling assertions. It claims the kill list – also known as the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) – conflates drug enforcement and counterterrorism.
It also says UK police units have helped the US military find targets for assassination and that unrepresentative examples of die-hard extremists are being cited to mask the human impact of drone warfare.
War on everything
The investigation warns that under the auspices of the UK’s targeted killing policy the ‘War on Terror’ is being merged with the ‘War on Drugs,’ with people other than suspected terrorists being killed by drones.
It alleges there may have been up to 50 Afghan drug traffickers on the list since 2009 and that UK police officers working for the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) worked with electronic intelligence agency GCHQ and Britain’s Joint Narcotics Analysis Centre to pick out targets.
Reprieve’s study claims the UK government has used particularly extreme examples to justify its drone policy, in the same way that the death penalty in the US has been justified by pointing to the most extreme killers.
It cites the example of Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement on September 15, 2015, when he said that a UK drone strike had killed jihadist Reyaad Khan in Syria. Reprieve claims this was used to spin the reality of drone warfare.
“History teaches us that it has always been easiest for advocates of the death penalty to sell their case to some by highlighting the face of a serial killer who is captured on film committing his atrocities,” the report says.
This, the NGO claims, is not reflective of the demographic most profoundly affected by drone warfare, instead arguing that drones are “far from the marvelously precise killing machines” they are marketed as. It claims up to nine innocent children have been killed in pursuit of a “High Value Target.”
The report warns against assassination as a tool of policy. It lauds those Conservative politicians who criticized Tony Blair’s government for “complicity” in the US torture program, but adds “if this government now seeks to drag the UK back to medieval times with an assassination project, it is only right that it should be fully discussed with parliament and the public.”