Foreign Secretary Hague is being sued over the alleged UK policy of handing over GCHQ-sourced intelligence to the CIA to aid US drone attacks in Pakistan.
The case was opened at the High Court in London yesterday on behalf of Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a US drone strike in March last year.
Lawyers from Leigh Day and Co said civilian intelligence officers who give information to the US may be liable as ‘secondary parties to murder’.
Noor Khan’s father, Malik Daud, was attending an outdoor council of elders meeting in North Waziristan in northwest Pakistan, when a drone missile hit the group.
The drone was believed to have been operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency and Malik Daud was one of 40 killed in the strike.
Leigh Day said it had ‘credible, unchallenged’ evidence that Hague oversaw a policy of passing British intelligence to US forces planning attacks.
The law firm pointed out that Pakistan is not involved in an international conflict.
Several reports have stated that British intelligence agencies have provided information on the whereabouts of alleged ‘militants’ targeted by the CIA.
In 2010 several media outlets, on the basis of a briefing said to emanate from official sources, reported that the General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), an agency for which the Secretary of State is responsible, provides ‘locational intelligence’ to the US authorities for use in drone strikes in Pakistan, amongst other places.
Leigh Day solicitors believe that GCHQ employees who assist CIA employees to direct armed attacks in Pakistan are, in principle, liable under domestic criminal law as secondary parties to murder and that any policy which involves passing locational intelligence to the CIA for use in drone strikes in Pakistan is unlawful.
The law firm says that evidence suggests that drone strikes in Pakistan are being carried out in violation of international humanitarian law, because the individuals who are being targeted are not directly participating in hostilities and/or because the force used is neither necessary nor proportionate.
This suggests that there is also a significant risk that GCHQ officers may be guilty of conduct ancillary to crimes against humanity and/or war crimes, both of which are statutory offences under the International Criminal Court Act 2001.
Richard Stein, Head of Human Rights at Leigh Day, said: ‘We believe that there is credible, unchallenged evidence that the Secretary of State is operating a policy of passing intelligence to officials or agents of the US government; and that he considers such a policy to be in “strict accordance” with the law.
‘If this is the case the Secretary of State has misunderstood one or more of the principles of international law governing immunity for those involved in armed attacks on behalf of a state and/or the lawfulness of such attacks; and his policy, if implemented, involves the commission of serious criminal offences by employees of GCHQ or by other officials or agents of the UK Government in the UK.’
A Leigh Day spokesman told News Line yesterday afternoon: ‘The papers were served on the Secretary of State today, who now has 21 days to respond.
‘The court will then make a decision on whether a substantive hearing can be ordered to take place in the next few months.’
Richard Stein, head of human rights at Leigh Day said: ‘We’re confident that we will get permission to take the case to trial.’