Banks investigate BT over Yemen drone strike link
The firms considering their investments in BT – after human rights charity Reprieve filed a complaint with the UK Government – include Standard Life, Blackrock, ING and Lloyds. Lloyds said in a letter to Reprieve that they have "asked our investment arm to investigate this matter in full."
The concerns centre on BT’s role in providing communications infrastructure between a US base in the UK and Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, from which US drones over Yemen are operated. The CIA and US Special Forces carry out covert drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan which have resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties – and are considered to be illegal under international law as they take place outside of war zones.
In response to questions from journalists over their involvement in the covert drone programme, BT have said that they are "comfortable having the US government as a client," and that "what they do with it [the service provided by BT] is their concern rather than ours."
However, a number of BT’s investors have confirmed that they are looking into the issue. Lloyds has told Reprieve that it "has requested analysis of the issues you raise from the research agencies it uses for human rights issues," while ING has said it is "keen to understand the outcomes" of the complaints procedure which will be carried out by the UK Government under OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) Guidelines.
Commenting, Reprieve CSR Advocate Catherine Gilfedder said: "BT’s response to date has been to refuse to address how the US government uses the company’s systems. If the company is playing a key role in the US’ illegal drone war, then its investors and its customers deserve to know. Hundreds of civilians have died as a result of covert drone strikes, the latest step in the misguided 'War on Terror’ – BT must come clean on whether or not it is involved in this."
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Reprieve wrote to a number of investors concerning their stakes in BT, and BT’s alleged role in supporting covert US drone strikes in Yemen. The following are extracts from their responses:
"I have…asked our investment arm to investigate this matter in full."
And in a subsequent response:
"Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, our investment business, has requested analysis of the issues you raise from the research agencies it uses for human rights issues. It will also be contacting BT directly to understand its position. We note that you have requested this issue is investigated by the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines. This could help clarify the status of BT's involvement in this case. We look forward with interest to the outcome of any investigation undertaken as a result of your complaint. We will monitor developments on this issue closely."
"As we understand, Reprieve filed a complaint with regard to this issue with the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. We are keen to understand the outcomes of the NCP complaint procedure. Could you please keep us informed of any response by the UK NCP."
"I can confirm that we have discussed your letter with representatives of BT."
"We will consider this matter as part of our engagement processes"
Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited
"We will monitor the situation, and will await the outcome of any review by the OECD National Contact Point Research into this issue."
"We will await the outcome of the complaint filed with the UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises."