The Government is facing a legal challenge over the decision to target Islamic State fighters in Syria without Parliamentary approval.
It is understood that military commanders who planned the strike demanded lawyers were present at all stages of the process according to the Sunday Times, to ensure the operation was legally watertight. It was reported that the Director of Special Forces was determined to have “legal top cover” before approving the mission.
However, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jones have joined with human rights charity Reprieve to take the first step towards a judicial review.
They have penned a letter to the Defence Secretary and Attorney General:
“The Raqqa strike, and the intention of the Government to pre-authorise targeted killings in the future in countries where the UK is not at war, is of concern to the claimants and many others.
The concern is heightened by the lack of clarity about the circumstances in which the Government reserves the right to kill British citizens outside of an armed conflict.
Such a lack of clarity as to the test which is being applied by the Government in deciding whether to pre-authorise the targeted killing of British nationals or individuals overseas raises real and serious concerns over the lawfulness of the Government’s past and expected resort to the use of lethal force.
It is unclear what, if any, policies, procedures and/or safeguards are in place to ensure that this ‘new departure’ is only exercised in accordance with domestic and international law.”
The Financial Times had previously reported that ministers believe enough opposition MPs would support military action in Syria for the Government to secure narrow approval in parliament for the expansion of RAF air strikes against ISIL. The newspaper reported that a senior Government source said they were “cautiously optimistic” the votes of Labour MPs in the House of Commons would outweigh those of Conservative rebels, who helped defeat David Cameron on military action in Syria two years ago.
Last week David Pannick QC placed a comment piece in The Times where he argued that the guidelines for drone strikes and cases where action is taken as a matter of national security should be made public.