‘Rendition’ victim wins Supreme Court battle to sue Government over alleged complicity in torture
Categories: Latest News
Tuesday January 17 2017
BBC News and The Guardian report on the Supreme Court ruling today which clears the way for Libyan national, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, to sue former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, Sir Mark Allen, former head of counter-intelligence at MI6, the Attorney General, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Home Office, over allegations of “unlawful detention and rendition, torture or cruel and inhuman treatment and assault” stemming from 2004.
Belhadj has been locked in legal battle with the Government over allegations that his illegal rendition to Libya and subsequent torture by the Gaddafi regime occurred with the imprimatur of the British Government who, he claims, colluded with the former regime.
Belhadj launched legal proceedings against Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen in December 2011 after fax documents were found in the office of Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s former intelligence chief, allegedly from Sir Mark and claiming to “congratulate” the Libyans on the “safe arrival” of their “cargo”.
Belhadj has maintained the UK Government was “complicit” in his rendition to the Libyan regime and his detention from March 2004 till March 2010 during which time he alleges he was tortured. Belhadj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, who is also listed as a litigant in the case, was pregnant when she and her husband were held in Malaysia before being “rendered” to Libya.
In news reports from 2011, Belhadj claimed he was “blindfolded, hooded, forced to wear ear defenders, and hung from hooks in his cell wall for what seemed to be hours.”
He claimed to have been “severely beaten” and “ear defenders were removed only for him to be blasted with loud music or when he was interrogated by his US captors.”
His wife, who was four and a half months pregnant, said she was chained by her left wrist to a wall for five days. She said she was “given water while chained up, but no food whatsoever”.
The claims came to light when Peter Bouckaert, a director with Human Rights Watch, found “a file containing hundreds of secret letters and faxes that MI6 and the CIA had sent to Koussa during the early days of the rapprochement between Libya and the west. Among them were a series of documents detailing the 2004 rendition operations.”
The Government has strenuously fought the claims citing the “Official Secrets Act“, or claiming that disclosures in court would harm “UK-US relations“. In 2014, the Court of Appeal ruled Belhadj could pursue legal claims against the Government which lost its argument on “state immunity” and the “doctrine of foreign act of state”.
Today’s Supreme Court running paves the way for court proceedings to now take place.
Last June, the Guardian disclosed a Freedom of Information request which revealed the Government had spent “at least” £600,000 fighting the claims against Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen.
In 2013, Belhadj in an open letter to then Prime Minister David Cameron, offered to settle the claims against Her Majesty’s Government for “£3 and an apology”. He wrote: “I am making an open offer to settle our litigation. My wife and I are willing to end our case against the UK government and Messrs Straw and Allen in exchange for a token compensation of a British pound from each defendant, an apology and an admission of liability for what was done to us.”
In response to today’s ruling, Belhadj said: “Years ago I asked the British government to apologise for what it had done. I have always said I was prepared to forgive, but that first Britain needed to accept that to abduct me and my wife and send us to Gaddafi is, and always was, wrong.
“The government refused this basic plea for justice. So I am gratified that we will have a trial. We have been waiting for justice for years. I continue to hope justice will one day be done – not just for my family, but in the name of everyone wrongly kidnapped in the war on terror.
Belhadj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, said in response to the Supreme Court’s judgment: “I was five months pregnant with my first son, Abdurahim, when the CIA took us. After the terror of the abduction and the CIA prison he was born weighing only four pounds.
“I want a better world for my kids, a world where this kind of thing does not happen. And I will fight until I see it or until officials admit that what was done to me was wrong.”