Assassination of individuals by the state

I wrote to my MP (via writetothem.com) about the British government assassinating people they suspected of planning terrorist attacks. He replied saying that the government believes the action was legal, proportional and necessary. Part of this justification was based on the fact that circumstances in Syria make it difficult to disrupt attacks in other ways. He stated the people killed were recruiting ISIL members and planning specific attacks in Britain. He also stated that this action was unconnected to general military action against ISIL in Syria.

My reply is below. Feel free to re-use and adapt it if you want to send a similar letter.

Dear Philip Hammond,

Thank you for your reply to my letter about the assassination of Junaid Hussain and Reyaad Khan.

I have 4 questions:

1. When did the British government start assassinating individuals suspected of planning terrorist attacks?

2. What standard of evidence is required to assassinate someone?

3. How imminent must a suspected attack be to warrant assassination?

4. What oversight is there of each decision to perform an assassination?

I continue to believe this practice is in conflict with British values and international law. You mention the UN Charter: I assume you are referring to Article 51 of the UN Charter, which refers to “armed attack” against a country. I do not accept that an individual suspected of planning a terrorist attack falls under the definition of an “armed attack” which was surely a reference to warfare by state-like entities, rather than plans being made by individuals to commit acts well-covered by UK criminal law.

We celebrated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in your constituency this year. Our reasons for celebration included the limitation of the state’s power over the individual. When the state executes individuals without trial or even publication of evidence, is there any practical limit to its power?

Yours sincerely,

Andy Balaam

Letter to my MP on UK government assassination of British Citizens in Syria

Below is a copy of the letter I sent to my MP this morning (via writetothem.com). Feel free to re-use and adapt it if you want to send a similar letter.

Update: follow-up letter.

Dear Philip Hammond,

I was extremely concerned to hear of the assassination of two British citizens by the UK armed forces [1].

The Prime Minister and Defence Secretary justified the attack on the basis of self-defence, which I believe is a reference to Article 51 of the UN Charter [2]. I consider the use of this article to cover action against individuals who are suspected of planning domestic terrorism to be wholly inappropriate. I support those who are calling for a legal challenge against this action.

Please pass on my concerns to the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary, and use your considerable influence in this area to make government policy focus on the use of criminal law to prevent domestic terrorism.

Please work to ensure the government abides by the decision of the UK parliament not to participate in military action in Syria, and thus not to treat this situation as a war in which the UK is participating. As you said on 2nd September 2013, “The House of Commons has ruled out military participation in any such response” (referring to our response to the use of chemical weapons).

Yours sincerely,

Andy Balaam

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34181475
[2] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Charter_of_the_United_Nations#Article_51
[3] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130902/debtext/130902-0001.htm#1309025000394

Letter to my MP on DRIP

Sent via WriteToThem.com.

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Dear Mr Hammond,

I am writing to express my concern about the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP).

I feel that forcing companies to store data on their customers is an unacceptable breach of the right to privacy, and not justified by the need to combat terrorism or other crime. I think a better balance could be struck by requiring agencies to get a court order to engage in such invasive surveillance.

I am also concerned about the elements of DRIP that amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), including the expansion of the definition of a communications service provider.

What emergency are we facing that requires parliament to move so quickly on this issue? The only emergency I can see is that UK government agencies are currently acting illegally.

These agencies should stop acting illegally, and laws should be drafted in the normal way to authorise proportionate surveillance.

I am particularly concerned that DRIP contains many similarities to legislation that has already been rejected by parliament.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Andy Balaam

[Inspired by Leo McArdle, thanks.]

[Feel free to re-use in whole or in part.]