Libyan dissident can sue British govt over MI6 rendition policy, Supreme Court rules
Britain’s highest court has ruled unanimously against the government in the case of rendition victim Abdul Hakim Belhaj, clearing the way for him to sue Tony Blair’s former foreign secretary, Jack Straw.
Belhaj claims his treatment and that of his pregnant wife in the torture chambers of late Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi – enabled by UK spies – contravened the Magna Carta and can now be heard in court.
@Reprieve statement on today's Supreme Court Belhaj #rendition ruling pic.twitter.com/k6wqaSVecp— Liz Shaw (@Liz_Shaw) January 17, 2017
The findings mean Straw, who was in charge of MI6 at the time of the rendition, can be sued.
The linked judgments arrived at by the court rule that senior ministers at the time cannot claim state immunity or escape trial based on “foreign acts of state.”
"We enter Trump era with not a soul held to account for Britain’s past role in rendition" - @cori_crider on why today's judgment matters.— Reprieve (@Reprieve) January 17, 2017
Lord Mance, presiding, ruled that torture has long been deemed an aberration in British law, arguing that: “The critical point in my view is the nature and seriousness of the misconduct alleged … at however high a level it may have been authorized.”
Quoting the Magna Carta at length, Mance told the court: “No free-man shall be taken, or imprisoned, or dispossessed, of his … Liberties … or be outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed … excepting by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the laws of the land.”
Belhaj and his wife Fatima Bouchar have accused the British government of allowing the Gaddafi regime to torture them in 2004, alleging both MI6 and Straw’s complicity in US-led rendition programs.
According to human rights charity Reprieve, which is assisting the couple in their legal challenge, Belhaj was tortured both in Libya and at a CIA ‘blacksite’ in Bangkok.
However, the judges did rule in favor of the UK government in two related cases, finding that allegations brought by Pakistani citizen Yunus Rahmatullah and Afghan Serdar Mohammed could be resisted as they took place in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively.
Jack Straw responded quickly to the findings, telling Channel 4:
Ex Foreign Sec Jack Straw response " I was never in any way complicit in the unlawful rendition or detention of anyone by other states. ”— simon israel (@simonisrael) January 17, 2017