On Dead Terrorists

Green Party parliamentarians Caoline Lucas and Jenny Jones, together with the pressure group “Reprieve” are attempting to persuade the UK courts to entertain a Judicial Review of the decision to attack two British men who were in Syria fighting for the so-called “Islamic State”.

As a lawyer, and until last week a civil servant, I genuinely understand the importance of proper procedure, lawfulness of policy and so on.

And I know just how damned complicated a legal question can be when it involves domestic and international law, national security and parliamentary procedure.

But as a British citizen and, perhaps more pertinently, a human being, my main concern about this story is really very simple.

The point of the law (in this context) is to ensure the government does not abuse its power. That is clearly a Good Thing. Nobody wants a government that can decide on a whim to send drones against anyone they don’t like.

But I would suggest that nobody (other than those who wish us ill) wants a government so paralysed by fear of legal action that it fails to take reasonable action to prevent loss of innocent life.

Now it may be that in making this particular decision, David Cameron failed to follow a pre-published policy, consult with all the appropriate bodies or have the necessary pre-authorisation of the two houses of Parliament after a fully-informed debate.

I am really not trying to minimise the importance of any of that. In an ideal world, every decision made would fully tick all those boxes.

But we do not live in an ideal world. And it doesn’t seem that Cameron has just given the OK on a whim or on the word of some bloke from MI5 who winked at him in the corridor of No 10.

The truth appears to be that he took what reasonable steps were possible in the limited time frame available to ensure that these were valid targets, that the decision was as lawful as it could be in the circumstances and that the risk of collateral damage was small, and on that basis, he gave the go-ahead.

To me, and I believe to the vast majority of the people in Britain (to whom he is ultimately accountable after all), the crucial point is this.

Nobody seems to have cast any doubt at all on the allegations that:

1. These two men were indeed Islamic State fighters and

2. they would, if left unchecked, probably have carried out or facilitated some sort of terrorist act against British civilians.

Until someone does cast such doubt, I am completely happy to say “Well done Mr Cameron” for making the right decision, and that I can sleep more soundly in the knowledge that we have a Prime Minister who is willing to make such hard choices to protect me, whether or not all the procedural boxes were ticked.

I am also quite happy to say to Ms Lucas, Ms Jones and Reprieve that I absolutely support their right to demand an explanation of how this decision was reached – Mr Cameron MUST fully account for it to Parliament (if he has not already done so) – but that to ensnare the government with a long, complicated and expensive legal challenge is both disproportionate and unnecessary.

I suggest to them that in this dangerous and fractured world, their limited resources – and most certainly those of the government and judicial system – would be better employed elsewhere.

Speak soon.

Labenal (@GoonerEll)

N.B. Image of Achmed The Dead Terrorist is a hilarious creation of Jeff Dunham. Look him up!

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