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Suits filed in Pakistan and UK over deadly drone strikes

By Ken Hanly

February 4, 2013



Islamabad - Noor Khan's father was killed in a drone strike along with dozens of others at a tribal council meeting in North Waziristan in 2011. Now Noor has filed suits against some of those involved including Pakistan, the US, and the UK.
Noor Khan asked Shahzad Akbar, director of the legal charity Foundation for Fundamental Rights, for help in bringing to justice some of those involved in his father's death. The case brought by Akbar will have broad legal and political consequences.
The case charges that Pakistan fails to protect the lives of its citizens and requests that the Pakistan government should take a complaint about US drone strikes to the UN Security Council, to seek compensation for his father's death from the US, and to demand an end to drone strikes. The case goes before a Pakistani court on Feb. 13.
If this case is won, Pakistan would be forced to confront the US, a result neither country wants, although perhaps some opposition politicians in Pakistan might welcome the win. The case also brings unwanted attention to a program that the Obama administration either praises as a great weapon against terrorism or, even more often, keeps under wraps.
Malik Daud Khan
was killed on March 17, 2011 by a missile from a drone that struck a community meeting with elders in North Waziristan. According to Leigh Day, the solicitors representing Noor Khan in a UK court, fifty people were killed in the strike, including many tribal elders, 5 members of the local police, and one child. The British courts have been brought into the case by a lawsuit that accuses UK officials of becoming "secondary parties to murder" by passing on intelligence to the US that is then used in choosing targets.
What worries intelligence officials is that the case could threaten intelligence sharing agreements. These links are praised as invaluable in the global fight against terror. However, they also may cause innocent deaths and even war crimes by passing on faulty or even malicious intelligence. For example, it is claimed that some of those trusted by US intelligence in Pakistan have used the relationship to get even with enemies by falsely identifying them as militants.
Judges in Britain are still deciding whether to hear the case brought forth by Noor Khan, who is a British citizen. Earlier the request was denied but an appeal lodged in January is now being considered. In interviews, several current and former UK government and intelligence officials said that Britain does provide intelligence to the US that is no doubt used in drone strikes.
An anonymous former UK counterterrorism official said:"The policy on drones and torture is clear: We don’t do any of it .But if we pick up on some hostile phone chatter, and we pass the number on to the Americans, who then pinpoint the phone and target the person, did we provide intelligence for the killing?"
The CIA declined comment on the issue. Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer, said that the British were the most important partner of the US in the war on terror. The British government response to the issue is now a mirror image of that of the US in that it "neither confirms nor denies" what it calls "any of such alleged activities".
Akbar is pursuing another drone case in Pakistan brought by Kareem Khan in regard to the killing of Khan's brother, son, and a guest in his house in North Waziristan In this case he is asking for $500 million compensation and an end to drone attacks in the region. In a phone interview Akbar said:People’s rights are directly affected in Waziristan. They are living under constant fear. Drones are overhead almost on a daily basis. They are quite low flying and they can be easily seen. It affects their right to life, to livelihood, to security. Children don’t go to school. Women won’t go outside. There’s no community life, and nobody knows if or when their families will be targeted.
Even should Akbar win his Pakistani cases, it is unlikely that he will be able to pursue them successfully at the international level. Any suits will be blocked on grounds of national security.
The Maher Arar case in Canada is illustrative of fateful intelligence sharing: A Canadian commission publicly cleared Arar of any links to terrorism, and the government of Canada later settled out of court with Arar. He received C$10.5 million and prime minister Stephen Harper formally apologized to Arar for Canada's role in his "terrible ordeal". Arar was a victim of the US rendition program and was tortured in Syria. He is still on the US no-fly list and was deported to Syria because he was judged to be a member of an Al Qaeda cell. The incompetence of the Canadian intelligence operatives from the RCMP and CSIS is illustrated in this description of the O Canada project shared their intelligence on Maher with the CIA. The team was composed almost entirely of individuals with no knowledge of intelligence gathering, Islam, or human rights issues, and was simply told to cooperate fully with the American Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency, turning over all information without hesitation.The project was ultimately found to have played a "central role" in the wrongful rendition and torture of Canadian citizens, including Maher Arar, who was tortured for ten months before being found innocent of the officers' claims that he was "suspected of being linked to the Al Qaeda terrorist movement
Of course the US refused to cooperate in the Maher Inquiry. Maher's suit in the US went nowhere but was rejected on grounds of national security. No one involved in the O Canada project was ever punished for their actions.

:: Article nr. 94937 sent on 05-feb-2013 23:41 ECT

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