The High Court here on Friday rejected a bid by a Pakistani national to force the British government to disclose its role in providing intelligence to the U.S. for its drone attacks in Pakistan.
Noor Khan (27), whose father was killed in a U.S. drone attack in North Waziristan last year, had sued the British foreign office arguing that Britain was responsible for his father’s death. His father Malik Daud Khan was among the 40 people killed when a meeting of tribal leaders, or jirga, was bombed by Americans.
Human rights lawyers acting for him claimed they had “credible, unchallenged” evidence that British Foreign Secretary William Hague oversaw a policy of passing intelligence to U.S. forces.
Britian refuses to either confirm or deny any role in assisting U.S. drone operations arguing that to do so would risk national security.
The court said it could not force the government to reveal its policy or rule on the legality of any intelligence-sharing in this regard. The oversight of intelligence arrangements was for the Parliament to decide, not for the courts.
Mr. Khan’s lawyers had claimed that U.K. secret communications centre, Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ), could be providing “locational intelligence” to the CIA which helped it to identify targets for drone strikes. British officials could, thus, be secondary parties to murder or guilty of war crimes.
The court ruled that merely passing on intelligence could not amount to an offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007 unless a particular state of mind could be proved against the provider.
“Since an employee [of GCHQ] is unlikely to be in a position to know whether or how intelligence is disseminated, no sensible guidance could possibly be given as to the circumstances when intelligence may lawfully be passed on and when it may not,” it said. Mr. Khan said he would appeal. Rosa Curling, of the legal firm Leigh Day, who represents Mr. Khan, said the case raised “very serious questions” about British involvement.
“This case seeks to determine the legality of intelligence sharing in relation to GCHQ assistance in CIA drone strikes. Those providing such information could be committing serious criminal offences, including conspiracy to murder,’’ she said.