Another story that slipped through the cracks this week: UK collusion in the Obama Murder Program:
British police have been accused of illegally supplying information on potential targets for a highly controversial military “kill list” in a legal challenge being launched at the high court on Wednesday.
The role of the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has been put under the spotlight by the claims, which are set out in papers to be filed on Wednesday morning.
Lawyers acting for an Afghan man who lost five members of his family in a missile strike are demanding a judicial review of Soca’s role, saying there is evidence the agency has been helping compile and review Nato’s Joint Prioritised Effects List (JPEL).
They say this breaches Soca’s remit and exceeds the unit’s statutory mandate and powers.
Soca, which is responsible for tracking down organised crime gangs and drug-traffickers, has denied any wrongdoing.
The case revolves around in incident on 2 September, 2010, when Nato forces in Afghanistan launched a missile strike against a convoy in Takhar province.
They believed they were targeting an insurgent leader and hailed the “precision air strike” a success.
However, the military operation may have been a case of mistaken identity.
Instead of hitting a man called Muhammad Amin, an alleged member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the missile killed five men who were relatives of an Afghan bank worker called Habib Rahman.
Rahman’s two brothers, two of his uncles and his father-in-law died in the missile attack. Three other members of his family were injured.
The men were driving around in convoy helping another member of the family who was campaigning for a parliamentary seat. In all, 10 people died in the attack.
Amin was not among them; he has since been seen alive.
The legal challenge states that Amin was on the “kill list” and that information from Soca has been used to help the US military decide whom to target.
It cites a report to the committee on foreign relations in the US Senate, which says Soca was one of the agencies providing information for the “kill list”.
Papers filed to court say: “The UK’s involvement in the list is not limited to military or intelligence officials but includes civilians working for Soca.
“The US Senate report specifically acknowledges such involvement by Soca.”
The author of the report was Douglas Frantz, who was chief investigator of the committee at the time, working for John Kerry, now US secretary of state.
In a witness statement in support of the demand for judicial review, Frantz says he conducted interviews and was a witness to briefings which left him in no doubt of Soca’s involvement.
“The statements made by the Soca officer quoted in the report and by others during my trip to Afghanistan led to my understanding that Soca was indeed involved in collecting and evaluating evidence as part of the preparation of the [list],” Frantz said.
Referring to the 2005 legislation that set out Soca’s powers, lawyers acting for Rahman said it would be illegal for the unit to provide any information that could lead to someone being killed.
“Nothing in the 2005 Act indicates that Soca is mandated to carry out activities outside the scope of civilian law enforcement,” the papers say.
“In particular, there is no express statutory authorisation for Soca to be involved in activities connected to armed conflict and the potential killing of individuals.”
Soca officers are not members of the armed forces and do not have the right to directly participate in hostilities in an armed conflict, the document adds.
The legal challenge relates to “an issue of fundamental constitutional importance, namely whether a UK public body is unlawfully involved in the taking of life. If there is any such involvement, either as alleged or at all, then prompt judicial oversight of the legality of the practice challenged is essential.”