Following the killing of Reyaad Khan in Syria by an RAF drone strike in August 2015, the UK Government has been pressured to develop its policy on states’ right to self-defence against imminent threats from non-state actors. The UK Attorney General’s speech on this issue in January 2017 is the latest public statement of policy on this issue. In the speech, the Attorney General set out what he called a ‘Modern Law of Self Defence’, built around principles first set out by Sir Daniel Bethlehem in 2012.
However, these Bethlehem principles were never intended to be used as a code in this way, having been formulated deliberately loosely in order to bring discussion on these issues out of ‘the shadows’ of inter-governmental discussions. So far, the UK has ignored the spirit of the principles, continuing to develop policy outside of the public sphere. This has significance beyond just UK policy as the need for a debate that could lead to the development of a global consensus on the legal regime around one of the most controversial contemporary uses of state force – the use of armed drones in targeted killing – grows ever more urgent as this technology spreads. Continue reading “Continuing in the Shadows: The UK’s Engagement with the Bethlehem Principles”