Legal proceedings issued against Government and Jack Straw by Libyan renditions victims

Lawyers for two Gaddafi opponents who were rendered along with their families to Libya by British intelligence in 2004 today issued formal legal proceedings at the High Court against those responsible for their ordeal. Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Sami al Saadi were living in exile in East Asia when they were detained and sent back to Gaddafi’s Libya with the help of the UK security services. Mr Belhadj was accompanied by his pregnant wife, and Mr al Saadi by his wife and four young children. All were imprisoned on their return, and Mr Belhadj and Mr al Saadi suffered years of torture and abuse. They have today issued proceedings against the UK Government, Jack Straw – who was Foreign Secretary at the time of their rendition – and the former director of counter-terrorism at MI6, Sir Mark Allen. Following the fall of Gaddafi, correspondence between Sir Mark and Libyan Security Chief Moussa Koussa was found, in which Sir Mark pointed out that while he “did not pay for the air cargo,” “the intelligence on [Mr Belhadj] was British.” The development comes as the Government attempts to push legislation through the House of Lords which could see the case held in a closed court, with the victims and their lawyers excluded and the Government allowed to present its side effectively without challenge. Mr al Saadi and his family are concerned that, should the Justice and Security Bill pass, it will lead to them being denied justice. His daughter, Khadidja, who was 12 years old when the family were forced aboard the plane back to Libya, has written to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke voicing these concerns, but has yet to receive a response. Reprieve’s Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “Khadidja al-Saadi wrote to Ken Clarke a month ago, asking him to explain why she was rendered to Libya at the age of twelve with her family. She also asked why he apparently felt her case should be heard in secret. Mr Clarke has ignored the letter, so the Saadis have decided to let the government make its case in court. “The al-Saadi and Belhaj cases will probably be first in line for the cover-up the government has planned in the so-called ‘Justice and Security Bill’. Some would say the Bill’s entire purpose is to hide scandals like the rendition of Khadidja al-Saadi. It’s not too late to stop the government scrapping British justice, but legislators need to wake up in a hurry.” Sapna Malik, Partner at solicitors Leigh Day & Co said: “It is extraordinary that in light of such clear evidence of the involvement of the British Government, in what we believe was illegal activity, they have chosen the stock response of neither confirming nor denying their complicity. “Following this insufficient response to our clients’ request we have now issued formal legal proceedings against both Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen in the High Court. “We can’t help but make the link between our client’s cases and the current obsession by this Government on closed trials which offend the fundamental principles of justice in this country and would succeed in hiding the truth behind these allegations and similar accusations of illegal activity by the security services on the instruction of politicians.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell or Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk or see http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/abdelhakimbelhadj and http://www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/samialsaadi 2. The issuing of formal legal proceedings follows a ‘letter before action’ sent in April 2012 to Jack Straw by law firm Leigh Day & Co, the lawyers for Mr Belhadj and Mr Al Saadi. The letter asked Mr Straw to produce a number of documents, including communications sent from Mr Straw or agents to the former Libyan government pertaining to Mr Belhadj and Mr Al Saadi as well as Mr Straw’s diaries, memoirs and/or notes over the period March 2004 to March 2010. A similar letter was sent in January 2012 to Sir Mark, alerting him to impending legal action against him. The letters sought a response to the allegations that both men were complicit in torture and misfeasance in public office. However, Leigh Day & Co has confirmed that the response received from the Treasury Solicitor to their letters is ‘insufficient’. In relation to Sir Mark, legal representatives for Whitehall chose neither to ‘confirm or deny’ the allegations or that any documents exist pertaining to the events surrounding the rendition of Mr Belhadj and Mr Al Saadi. 3. Further information on the Justice and Security Bill, which is currently before the House of Lords, can be found here: http://www.reprieve.org.uk/investigations/secret_justice 4. The text of Khadidja al Saadi’s letter to Ken Clarke concerning the Bill, sent in May this year, can be found here.

5. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.