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‘Kill list’ is Britain’s shame

REPRIEVE’S discovery that Britain has operated a covert “kill list” for at least 14 years shames successive governments.

It makes a mockery of all claims that our country seeks to uphold international law, should anyone who remembers the unprovoked carnage our leaders have helped unleash in countries like Iraq and Libya still need convincing.

It ensures that all the righteous indignation we have expressed about assassinations by other countries, such as Russia’s probable role in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, will ring hollow.

It further guarantees that all the pious statements ministers have uttered over the years attacking other countries’ use of the death penalty will lack credibility.

As Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith puts it: “For a country that loudly proclaims its opposition to the death penalty even after a fair trial, the hypocrisy is stunning: now we know that UK authorities are deeply involved in executing all kinds of people, including alleged drug dealers, without a trial at all.”

The charity’s revelations are not totally unexpected. It was already a matter of public record that our government had joined the grisly club of nations, led by the United States, which arrogate to themselves the right to arbitrarily kill human beings far from any battlefield.

Last September we heard about the executions on David Cameron’s orders of British citizens Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin, who had joined the Isis terror group.

But at the time the Prime Minister claimed this was a “new departure” for our country.

The evidence now suggests otherwise, which would mean the PM’s tax affairs aren’t the only thing he’s been misleading us about — and the fact that his drone strike claim was made to Parliament makes it all the more serious. The calls for him to resign echoing across the land will sound all the louder after this.

But the first evidence of a “kill list” Britain participated in drawing up and, literally, executing dates to 2002, when a so-called Joint Prioritised Effects List (JPEL) was compiled with the US and possibly other countries. That means the issue goes much deeper than the Cameron premiership or even the Tory Party.

The details make chilling reading. In August 2010 — the date of the version of the list leaked by Edward Snowden — 669 individuals were listed, mostly from Afghanistan where JPEL was conceived but including people from Pakistan who were added at the suggestion of the British authorities.

The list is subdivided into categories of “target” — people to be monitored, people to be captured rather than killed, people to be captured or killed and people who were to be killed on sight, a designation totally illegal in international law.

The growth of murder-by-drone has been one of the most disgusting characteristics of the Obama administration in the United States.

Earmarking individuals for death outside warzones, at the discretion of the country authorising the killing, turns the entire planet into a free-for-all shooting range at the mercy of the strongest powers.

Drones fire powerful missiles and do not spare the innocent. Victims in Afghanistan have included attendees at tribal summits and even weddings.

It appears that London, the US’s closest collaborator on the killing fields of the Middle East, has stood shoulder to shoulder with Washington in this barbaric practice as well, and for many years under Labour governments.

Jeremy Corbyn has an admirable record of standing against such butchery. He should make it clear that a Labour government would call a halt to it — and would launch a public investigation into who gave the nod to these illegal acts, irrespective of whether they were members of his own party.

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