The Government won’t explain when it thinks it is OK to kill people with drones

MPs and peers say the lack of transparency on the policy is ‘not good enough’

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The Government has been accused of leaving a grey area around whether and how it will use targeted drone strikes to assassinate people outside of times of war.

Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights said it was “disappointed that the Government has refused to clarify its position in relation to the use of lethal force outside armed conflict”.

Harriet Harman, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said it was “simply not good enough” for the Government to refuse to make clear its policy on the extrajudicial killings.

Last year David Cameron justified the killing of British citizens fighting in Syria via a drone strike.

“We took this action because there was no alternative,” he said of the RAF strike in a statement to the Commons in September.

“In this area, there is no government we can work with. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots.”

The Joint Committee, which includes MPs and peers, said the Government had not clarified whether it was applying the laws or war to the killings, would not say under what circumstances the European Convention on Human Rights applies.

Harriet Harman chairs the Joint Committee on Human Rights (Getty)

The Government had previously said the question was “hypothetical” and that this was a reason not to answer it.

Ms Harman said: “The Government has stated that it follows ‘detailed and developed thinking’ when applying the law to its use of lethal drone strikes but this has not been fully demonstrated in its response to our report,” she said.

“Greater insight has been provided into the broad approach the Government takes in establishing what terrorist threats merit the use of force. However the Government has chosen not to answer the most important questions raised by our report concerning its understanding of the legal framework which governs the use of lethal drone strikes outside armed conflict.  

“It is simply not good enough for the Government to refuse to answer this on the grounds that it is a hypothetical question, when in the course of our inquiry it stated that it would be prepared to resort to such use of lethal force for counter-terrorism purposes even outside of armed conflict.  

“Parliament is entitled to expect an explanation of the Government’s view of the legal justification for such a use of force before it happens, rather than wait until it does.”