First Published: 2017-01-11

Britain sets out legal parameters for drone strikes
British government says international law must adapt to 'changing times' to counter terrorism threat posed by new technology.
Middle East Online

Britain's Attorney General, Jeremy Wright

LONDON - Britain on Wednesday set out the legal basis for drone strikes against terror suspects overseas, saying new technology meant some terror attacks were developing too quickly for traditional law enforcement to react.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright, the government's top legal officer, said international law must adapt to "changing times" where social media was used to inspire and train militants within a short space of time.

The government's policy has come under scrutiny since an unprecedented RAF drone attack killed two Britons fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria in August 2015.

In a major speech, Wright will set out how decisions are taken when Britain can act in "self-defence", including assessments of the immediacy, nature and probability of the suspected attack.

"The situation we face today does not always allow for the possibility of using criminal law enforcement measures to stop attacks," he will say, according to extracts of the speech obtained by AFP.

"We are a long way from being able to see troops massing on the horizon. Technology has made it easier for terrorists to carry out attacks. The law has to keep up with the changing times."

The likelihood that there will be other opportunities to act that might "cause less serious collateral injury, loss or damage" is also a factor -- an acknowledgement of potential civilian deaths from drone strikes.

Other issues to be considered include whether the anticipated attack is part of a concerted pattern of continuing armed activity, and its likely scale.

The government must also consider the loss or damage likely to result from failing to act, Wright will tell the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Former prime minister David Cameron revealed the 2015 RAF drone strikes in a speech to parliament, saying it was Britain's first such action in a country where it was not involved in military operations.

He said that one of the targets, 21-year-old Reyaad Khan, had been planning "barbaric" attacks in Britain on high-profile public events that summer.

British security services and counter-terrorism forces say they have foiled at least 10 attacks in Britain in the past two years.


Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Natural gas in eastern Mediterranean fuels increasing tensions

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis

Israel blasts Gaza underground tunnel

Abu Dhabi awards France's Total stakes in oil concessions

Erdogan says Afrin city centre under ‘total’ control

Egypt tries to contain Sudan but challenges, suspicions remain

US defence secretary presses Oman on Iran weapons smuggling

Syrian regime retakes two towns from Ghouta rebels

Hamas shutters mobile firm after Gaza attack on PM

Israel punishes family members of West Bank attacker