The Government has been forced to delete a section of a key report on drone policy after it revealed that British drones are being used to carry out killings outside of war zones. Drones have previously been used to carry out the extra-judicial killings of British citizens in Syria, but this is the first time the Ministry of Defence has acknowledged their use outside areas of combat.
The decision to carry out the strikes on Junaid Hussain and Reyaad Khan in 2015 was controversial as the Government had been denied authority to carry out air strikes in the country by a vote in the House of Commons. It is thought to be the first time that British citizens have been killed by drones.
The MoD published its Joint Doctrine in September 2016, containing the acknowledgement that drones were being used to target people outside of war zones while noting that the growth in opposition to drone use “may also arise from the recent UK practice of targeting suspected terrorists outside of the armed conflict itself, and the meaning and application of a state’s right to self-defence.” The section was missing from the updated version of the document, with the removal spotted by Scottish Nationalist Party spokesperson Stewart McDonald.
Mark Lancaster, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, said that the original version of the document was the result of “erroneous drafting” and described the reports of MoD policy on carrying out drone strikes outside of war zones as “misleading.”
Through the use of drones in various areas of conflict, the UK is able to continue to participate in wars which the public have opposed for many years. The whole operation to shrouded in secrecy, with the Government refusing to confirm or deny that a “kill list” exists, although Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has previously said that no “terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country,” adding “We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.”