UK's use of drones in Afghanistan 'may be in breach of international law'

Campaigning lawyers challenge legal defence set out by RAF as six protesters await trial over mass trespass of UK drone HQ

The use of remotely piloted drones by British forces in Afghanistan may be in breach of international law, a controversial legal opinion circulated to peace campaigners and released on Saturday claims.

The argument challenges the well established legal defence set out by the RAF for deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the UN-sanctioned conflict.

Publication of the document coincides with the court appearance this week of six anti-drone protesters who pleaded not guilty to causing criminal damage following the first mass trespass inside the RAF’s new ground control for Afghan drone operations.

Written by Phil Shiner and Dan Carey of the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, the legal opinion argues that use of drones inside Afghanistan, which is a UN-declared conflict zone, is subject to the European convention on human rights (ECHR). That principle is already established in British case law, they say, in relation to the case of Al Skeini, which went to judges in Strasbourg and concerned the killing of civilians during British security operations in Iraq.

Their document states: “The requirement …read more  

Drones mean RAF Waddington could become a new Greenham Common

Only one protester is staying at the site from where drones are controlled, but six are facing charges for entering the base

We pulled up to the peace caravan, Simon and I, his maroon taxi making its diesel noises, which is the only way I can account for the speed with which the police caught up with us. RAF Waddington spreads across the road, its planes sharp-nosed and incongruously aggressive against the Lincolnshire countryside. We didn’t see any drones.

“They’re just activated from Waddington,” pacifist Helen John says. “They could take off from anywhere in the world.” The missile-carrying Reaper aircraft have been controlled from here since April. I actually have no idea what a drone looks like.

“I don’t have a problem with it, to be honest,” Simon remarks. We had parked opposite Helen’s caravan, in a field of outrageously optimistic blossoming rapeseed, and were waiting for the police to pull up.

“To me, it’s no different to going over in a plane and dropping a bomb. Except it’s safer for our people.

“I suppose that’s the difference, isn’t it? When you kill people without putting yourself in jeopardy, that’s a moral difference” (not to mention being a war crime – which …read more  

Torture and ill-treatment past and present

The decision to compensate the victims of torture and illegal detention during the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya (Britain has said sorry to the Mau Mau, 7 June) is heartening and must lend weight to claims for compensation by those whose civil and human rights were abused by British security forces in the first colonial counterinsurgency campaign of the postwar era, in Palestine.

Will the government now apologise for the torture and murder of a 16-year-old boy, Alexander Rubowitz, who was seized by an undercover police squad led by Major Roy Farran in the Rehavia district of Jerusalem on 6 May 1947? Rubowitz was a member of LEHI, the Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, a proscribed underground organisation responsible for numerous assassinations and bombings. But when he was apprehended he was doing nothing worse than distributing anti-British propaganda. He was taken to a deserted area outside Jerusalem, where Farran struck him repeatedly on the head with a rock, causing his death. Farran admitted this to his commanding officer, Colonel Bernard Fergusson, and said the policemen with him had stripped the boy’s body and mutilated it. The corpse was never recovered. Farran was subsequently investigated by …read more  

Former soldiers to qualify as teachers in two years under government scheme

Ex-service personnel with no degree will be able to become teachers in half the normal time from next year

Former soldiers will be able to qualify as teachers in two years under a new government scheme.

From next year, ex-service personnel who do not have a degree, but have experience or qualifications as instructors, coaches or mentors, will be able to sign up to a programme that will put them in the classroom in around half the time it usually takes to become a teacher.

The move is part of a bid by ministers to encourage members of the army, Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy to consider teaching as a career.

The Department for Education (DfE) also said that former military personnel who already had a degree would be handed bursaries and be able to enrol on teacher training courses with extra bespoke training.

The education minister David Laws said the schemes would help ex-servicemen and women to make the move into the classroom.

But a headteachers’ leader raised concerns that the programmes would not provide the right preparation and support for teaching, and warned against creating a “military ethos” in schools.

The two schemes are part of the government’s Troops …read more