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Committee requests clarification of drone policy and invites witnesses

5 November 2015

Following the announcement of the drones inquiry by the Joint Committee on Human Rights last week, Committee Chair Harriet Harman has written to the Attorney General Jeremy Wright, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and and Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon to indicate some of the ways in which the Committee  has asked the Government to assist the Committee with its inquiry.

In view of the centrality of the legal framework to the subject-matter of the Committee's inquiry, and the importance of legal advice in the decision-making process leading to the authorisation of a drone strike, the Committee has invited oral evidence from Government lawyers and the military on this matter.  The Committee will also be inviting several leading experts in the field and military personnel with operational experience of drone strikes to give evidence and intends to conclude its inquiry by taking evidence from the Attorney General, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence.
The Committee also intends to visit RAF Waddington, the base from which drone strikes are launched in the UK, to see for themselves the physical setting from which strikes are launched and the conditions in which the personnel work.
The Committee has requested from the ministers a clear statement of the Government's policy on the use of drones for targeted killing; a comprehensive description of the legal framework, the existing guidance, the decision making process which precedes ministerial authorisation, and a summary of the existing accountability mechanisms.  It has also asked a number of detailed questions which the Committee wants answered by the Government.

Chair's comment

Committee Chair Harriet Harman said:

"The Human Rights Committee has begun its inquiry into the Government's policy on the use of drones for targeted killing.  In view of the strong public interest in clarifying the legal basis for the Government's policy, we want to hear from the principal lawyers involved in advising the Government and the military on this issue. 

We will visit the RAF base from which drone strikes are launched.  We look forward to receiving the Government's response to the detailed questions we have asked in our letter."

The Committee has requested a response by Thursday 19 November 2015. 

Further information

Image: PA