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UK judges block action over US drone attacks in Pakistan

22 December, 2012

LONDON: Judges on Friday blocked a legal action brought by a Pakistani man against Britain over allegations that British intelligence has been used in US drone attacks on Pakistan.

Lawyers for Noor Khan, 27, who lives in Pakistan, launched the action at the High Court in London in March after the death of his father Malik Daud Khan last year in a drone strike in North Waziristan. They sought to challenge the lawfulness of the help Britain's intelligence gathering agency GCHQ reportedly provides to the CIA, such as information targeting militants, which is then used in deadly drone strikes.

However, lawyers for British Foreign Secretary William Hague had urged the court to block the legal proceedings, saying the case was unarguable. They said it raised issues relating to sovereign foreign states that cannot be determined by English courts, adding that any ruling would have a "significant" impact on British relations with the United States and Pakistan. Lord Justice Alan Moses refused Khan permission to bring the legal challenge at the High Court on Friday.

"The real aim is to persuade this court to make a public pronouncement designed to condemn the activities of the United States in North Waziristan, as a step in persuading them to halt such activity," he said. The judge said lawyer Martin Chamberlain, who represented Khan in court, "knows he could not obtain permission overtly for such a purpose". He added, "His stimulating arguments have been an attempt to shroud that purpose in a more acceptable veil." The covert US attacks are unpopular in Pakistan, where the government criticises them as a violation of sovereignty, but US officials believe they are a vital weapon against militants.

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