RSS FeedFacebookSearch
Gary Younge

Reyaad Khan (left) and Ruhul Amin: ‘They will never be found guilty; they will only be found dead.’
Photograph: YouTube/PA
State-sanctioned killings without trial: are these Cameron’s British values?

Three months ago David Cameron celebrated the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Flanked by the Queen and the archbishop of Canterbury he genuflected before the pillars of Britain’s legal system.

“Magna Carta is something every person in Britain should be proud of,” he said. “Its remaining copies may be faded, but its principles shine as brightly as ever, in every courtroom and every classroom, from palace to parliament to parish church.

“Liberty, justice, democracy, the rule of law – we hold these things dear, and we should hold them even dearer for the fact that they took shape right here, on the banks of the Thames.”

On Monday he confirmed that he had executed two British citizens without trial. Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin were jihadis, from Cardiff and Aberdeen respectively, fighting for Isis in Syria. They were not killed in the heat of battle but with cold calculation. Their assassination was the result of “meticulous planning”, claims Cameron.

Khan and Amin apparently made a choice to declare war on both the west and other Muslims and have died in it. It should worry us all when young British men opt for that path.

Intelligence agencies claim that Khan and Junaid Hussain, a Briton killed in a separate airstrike last month, were planning to attack two major events this year: VE commemorations at Westminster Abbey in May and an Armed Forces Day ceremony in June. Such attacks would have been heinous.

But that doesn’t justify state-sanctioned killing, for three reasons. First, and most important, we are a country ostensibly governed by the rule of law. People are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty by a court. These were the very principles Cameron claimed to “hold dear” just months ago. We know, most recently from Iraq, not to put too much faith in intelligence agencies. But if they are capable of pinpointing the whereabouts of these men in Syria and killing them, then they should be capable of preventing an attack they “know” is coming and arresting and apprehending those they “know” are going to do it.

Any number of vile crimes are committed by Britons every year – the state’s response is never execution

If they had a case they should have made it not to the military but to the courts. This is not an example of justice being done, but of justice being avoided. Even if it were found to be legal, morally it would still be wrong.

Second, even if they are guilty Britain does not practise capital punishment. Fred West murdered at least 12 women and tortured and raped many others. He went on trial and died in prison. Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, murdered 13 women and tried to murder seven others. He went on trial and remains in jail. Any number of vile crimes are committed by Britons every year – the state’s response is never killing.

Finally, these short cuts do not bolster the fight against terrorism but undermine it, because they violate the very principles of a liberal democratic state that Cameron claims he’s trying to protect. Britain can now add extrajudicial killings to torture, rendition and occupation as tools in defence of “Enlightenment values”.

Cameron insists that these men were “seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the west”. We’ll have to take his word. They will never be found guilty; they will only be found dead.

© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc
Who Are We – And Should It Matter in the 21st Century?
book review
The more power an identity carries, the less likely its carrier is to be aware of it as an identity at all.
 follow on twitter
RT @thefreedomi: 🚨 NEW: Saudi women’s rights activist & academic Salma al-Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison + 34 year travel ban f…
RT @LRB: #DawnFosterForever! On Thursday 15 September at the @LRBbookshop, @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanley and @garyyounge will d…
RT @ShowunmiV: This is how we support Black women and girls
RT @sonikkalogan: It's #DataPoint Pod Thursday! In this week's episode, I talk to @noraneus, @garyyounge and @Casey_J_Wooten about the U.S.…
RT @bgnoiseuk: Next month, @LRBbookshop will host an event to celebrate the life and work of Dawn Foster with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lyn…
Help me Twitter. The quote: ""You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming." is most commonly…
RT @the_hindu: #DataPoint | This Thursday, @sonikkalogan takes a look at the #US gun violence epidemic, as mass shootings continue to grow…
City workers get double-digit wage rises while lowest-paid see 1% increase - “Them’s the breaks”
RT @LRBbookshop: On 15 Sept we'll host an evening celebrating the life and work of Dawn Foster, with @BizK1, @piercepenniless, Lynsey Hanle…
© Gary Younge. All Rights reserved, site built with tlc