Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a US drone strike in northwestern Pakistani tribal regions in March 2011, was told by London’s Court of Appeal on Monday that he could not continue his legal battle as it could require a UK court to pass judgment on the US affairs.
Lawyers from Britain’s Foreign Office had told the judges that considering the issue by a British court and a possibility of a ruling in favor of Khan could damage relations between the UK and US.
“[A] finding by our court that the notional UK operator of a drone bomb which caused a death was guilty of murder would inevitably be understood… by the US as a condemnation of the US,” the lawyers argued.
In December 2012, the High Court also ruled against Khan, who argued that the UK spy agency GCHQ had assisted the murder by providing “locational” intelligence to the CIA.
Khan said he is still determined to “get answers from the British government” about their involvement in his father’s death.
“I used to think that Britain stood for justice, but now it seems as though the government has put itself above the law.”
Human rights charity Reprieve, which is supporting Khan, also described the court ruling as “shameful,” saying the risk of embarrassing the United States has trumped British justice in Khan’s case.
“It now appears that the UK government can get away with murder, provided it is committed alongside an ally who may be sensitive to public criticism,” said a spokesperson for the charity.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism Ben Emmerson said in October that data from the Pakistani government show that at least 2,200 people have been killed in Pakistan by US drone attacks since 2004.