Lawyer begins action against CIA chief over drone strikes

CAMPAIGNERS against drone strikes in Pakistan say they are prepared to launch legal action in the UK against British officials who have passed intelligence to the CIA's covert programme in an effort to stop the unmanned aircraft killing civilians.

Yesterday lawyers acting for relatives of those killed close to the border with Afghanistan lodged a formal case against John Rizzo, the former acting general counsel for the American intelligence agency, accusing him of murder for his role in sanctioning targets.

The US has accelerated the use of unmanned aircraft to kill terrorist suspects since 2008. However, their use is hugely controversial in Pakistan where campaigners say they have killed more than 2000 innocent people since 2004.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer based in Islamabad, said he hoped legal action in the UK would follow. "The UK is providing intelligence for the drone strikes," he said. "Out of 28 strikes which we are investigating, we are now looking to see which of those they were involved in."

Yesterday he lodged a first incident report at an Islamabad police station against Mr Rizzo, accusing him of six murders as well as conspiracy to kill a large number of Pakistani citizens.

In an interview with Newsweek earlier this year, Mr Rizzo, 63, admitted approving drone targets. "How many law professors have signed off on a death warrant?" he said, even suggesting he had been involved in "murder".

The case put together by Mr Akbar centres on three strikes. The first, in North Waziristan, hit a house during Ramadan, killing three relatives of a 15-year-old boy, who also lost his legs.

The second case is brought by Kareem Khan, a journalist whose brother and son were killed by a drone in 2009. Last year he lodged a murder case against Jonathan Banks, the then CIA station chief in Islamabad who had to be whisked out of the country.

And the third complaint is brought by Maezol Khan, whose son had been sleeping outside when he was killed by shrapnel from a drone strike South Waziristan, also in 2009.

Mr Akbar added: "This is an effort to convince people that if a crime has been committed against them then they should follow due process and go to court, not go to war with America."

Relations between Pakistan and the US are already in desperate trouble. Both sides have accused the other of acting in bad faith since the covert American raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May. While secretly approving the use of drones on their territory, Pakistani ministers and army officers have repeatedly condemned the attacks as an infringement of their country's "sovereignty".

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