We tolerate this at our peril

The modern alternative to judge and jury?

The British government has taken a huge step towards tyranny.

The secret drone strikes that killed two British men in August were extra-judicial killings – in other words, these men were deliberately executed without recourse to the law.

It’s certainly not the first time this kind of thing has happened, but way that the mainstream media, from the BBC to the Daily Telegraph, is nudging the conversation towards making it seem perfectly acceptable is, to my mind, extremely disturbing.

Many people will say that as the men were planning terrorist attacks, possibly in the UK, they deserved to be killed. But what if they were doing no such thing? Are we expected to blithely accept the reports, despite the fact that one of the men, Reyaad Khan, who according to David Cameron was killed in the secret drone strike in Raqqa on 21st August, was also reported on the 21st July to have been killed in an airstrike?

Presumably some of the reports were mistaken. What other mistakes have been made? The law has been developed to protect us from injustice, which can sometimes be the result of mistakes.

The British legal system, no matter how corrupt parts of it have become, is part of the checks and balances that have (arguably) kept our nation free from the kinds of tyranny and dictatorships that we’ve witnessed in many parts of the world, where people disappear without trace simply for voicing opposition to their government.

While the Nazis ruled Germany, the Communists subjugated Russia and Eastern Europe, General Franco dominated Spain and a military junta tyrannised Greece, Britain was proud to be a democracy. Outside Europe dictatorships from North Korea to Cambodia to South and Central America have terrorised their subjects while the people of Britain have generally considered themselves lucky to live in a safe and free part of the world.

We are effectively assenting to the right of the government to kill any one of us.

If we consent to our government being allowed to kill at will because its agents tell us that the victims present a danger, but that the information it has on these people is too secretive for the rest of us to know, that crosses a very serious line. We are effectively assenting to the right of the government to kill any one of us.

The ancient right of habeus corpus – the right to be tried in a court of law – is one of the cornerstones of English law. It dates back to at least 1305 (possibly earlier) and has been established throughout the UK, the USA and the countries that were formerly the British Commonwealth, including Canada, India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand, as well as several European countries.

We surrender this right at our peril.

Whatever the ultimate aims, allegiences or moral standing of the two men who were killed in this secret drone strike, if we give our consent to this action, every single one of us, each man, woman or child is at risk.

This, I believe, is a situation comparable with Germany in the early days of the Nazis, before people realised the full extent of what the country was heading towards. At that time anti-Jewish feeling was common all over the world and many people found it easy to shrug off acts of violence towards Jewish people as they assumed that the Jews were in the wrong and the authorities were just doing what they had to do.

We must not let this happen again. We can’t let our rights and laws slip back to the dark ages.

In the words of the Manic Street Preachers, if you tolerate this, then your children WILL be next.

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