Gavin Williamson has responded to criticism over his statement that British Islamist fighters should be “hunted down” and killed, noting “the British people want to make sure that our streets are safe.”
Earlier, the defence secretary was accused of pursuing a policy that “belongs in a Netflix series.”
Williamson told the Daily Mail those bent on bringing “destruction, death and bloodshed” to Britain’s streets were being “hunted down” and that threat “eliminated.”
Responding to a backlash, Williamson said: “The British people are incredibly proud of our armed forces, the work they do – making sure that the people who are a threat to this country are not able to continue to threaten this country.
“That’s what the British people want to know that their Government is doing. That is what we will continue to do.”
Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Lord Campbell said Williamson appeared to be endorsing breaches of humanitarian law, while Labour MP Dan Jarvis said his comments were “morally, legally and practically wrong.”
Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesperson offered more measured language, noting that a process already existed for cancelling Islamic State fighters’ British passports.
Williamson had told the Mail: “I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country.”
“Our job in terms of eliminating will not stop this year, will not stop next year, it is something we have got to continue to pursue.”
“A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain,” he said.
Lord Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “It simply will not be lawful in all circumstances to kill jihadis, as the secretary of state seems to be suggesting.
“A policy which says we will simply kill every individual who has travelled to Syria or to Iraq, even if they are surrendering, even if they have laid down their weapons, is really a policy that belongs in a Netflix series more seriously than it belongs in the range of policies that should be being applied by the UK Government.
“We can’t simply say that everyone who has gone to Iraq will now be hunted down and killed. That’s a juvenile response. It’s not a serious, grown-up policy response for a senior British Government minister.”