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Afghan ‘Kill List’ Legal Challenge

Lawyers acting on behalf of an Afghan man have issued legal proceedings in the High Court claiming that the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency's alleged involvement in a ‘kill list’ of Afghan targets is unlawful

17 July 2013

Lawyers acting on behalf of an Afghan citizen, who lost five of his relatives in a missile attack by international military forces, have this week issued legal proceedings in the High Court against the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) claiming that the agency’s alleged involvement in a ‘kill list’ of Afghan targets is unlawful.

Habib Rahman from Kabul, Afghanistan, lost two of his brothers, two of his uncles and his father-in-law in a missile attack on 2 September 2010. Mr Rahman’s cousin, Abdul Wahab Khorasani, is a former Parliamentary candidate for Takhar province in Afghanistan.

In the run-up to the Afghan Parliamentary elections in 2010, several of our Mr Rahman’s relatives assisted Mr Khorasani with his campaign.

The attack occurred while they were campaigning with Mr Khorasani in Rustaq district of Takhar province.

In total, the attack killed 10 civilians and injured several more, most of whom were election campaign workers and relatives of Mr Rahman. At the time the Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the strike.

According to a press release issued by the International Security Assistance Force on 2 September 2010, the attack was 'a precision air strike'. The statement claimed “initial reflections indicate 8 to 12 insurgents were killed or injured in the strike, including a Taleban commander.”

However, evidence suggests that this was an instance of mistaken targeting. The strike was apparently aimed at a person whose name had been added to a list of individuals known variously as the Joint Prioritised Effects List or Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List.

The effect of adding a person’s name to the list is to designate that person as an enemy combatant, who as such may be targeted and potentially killed. An official public report to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate (the US Senate Report) described the list as a ‘kill list,’ stating that, ‘The military places no restrictions on the use of force with these selected targets, which means they can be killed or captured on the battlefield".

Law firm Leigh Day claim that UK civilians working for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) are involved in or contribute to the compilation, review, administration and/ or execution of the List.

The firm argues that SOCA’s involvement in the List is unlawful in that it exceeds the agency’s statutory mandate and powers.

Rosa Curling from Leigh Day, who is representing Mr Rahman, said: “Our government argues that the UK’s presence in Afghanistan is needed in order to help establish and maintain democracy and the rule of law.

“The UK government has no hope of doing this, if at the same time it is itself involved in the unlawful killing of civilians in Afghanistan. We cannot have civilian law enforcement official involved in military operations.

“The 'Kill List', in which the UK is involved, operates as a target list for individuals located in Afghanistan.
One of the options for dealing with those on it is to kill them.

“Our client lost five of his relatives as a result of a “precision air strike” related to the 'Kill List' An independent investigation however, has shown that this was a case of mistaken targeting. At the time of their death the victims were all campaigning for the election of a local Parliamentary candidate.

“As a civilian policing organisation SOCA has no legitimate or lawful role to play in the compilation or administration of this Kill List – it has no authority to be involved in military operations and the killing of individuals.

“The courts must urgently review whether the SOCA’s and indeed the UK’s role in the compilation, review and execution of this List if unlawful. Incidents like that affecting our client must be properly investigated.”

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