UK Supreme Court to decide Libyan renditions case on Tuesday

January 16, 2017

The UK Supreme Court will decide on Tuesday (17th Jan at 9.45am) if a Libyan family can sue Jack Straw, a former MI6 officer, and the government over Britain’s role in their rendition to Colonel Gaddafi’s torture chambers in 2004.

UK government lawyers claim that the case cannot be heard in a British court because it would damage relations with the United States.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his then-pregnant wife, Fatima Boudchar, were rendered to Libya in a joint MI6-CIA operation.

If the Supreme Court rules in the family’s favour, then a civil claim against former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the intelligence agencies will proceed.

The Belhaj family have asked for an apology and a token £1 payment from each of the defendants.

The UK government has already settled a related claim out of court by paying compensation to another family who were rendered to Libya in the same conspiracy just weeks after Belhaj and Boudchar. The al-Saadi family included four children, aged 12 and under.

The cases came to light after the fall of Tripoli in 2011, when faxes from MI6’s then counter-terrorism director Sir Mark Allen describing the rendition flights were found in Libya’s intelligence headquarters.

Sir Mark was investigated by Scotland Yard for his role in the abductions, and a legal challenge to the Crown Prosecution Service’s refusal to charge him is ongoing.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, seemed to suggest earlier this year that the Metropolitan Police had recommended that Sir Mark should be charged.

The mayor told the London Assembly “The Metropolitan police submitted a comprehensive file of evidence (in excess of 28,000 pages) to the Crown Prosecution Service seeking to demonstrate that the conduct of a British official amounted to misconduct in public office.”

The Supreme Court decision will come just days before the inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump, who promised on the campaign trail to bring back “a hell of a lot worse” than waterboarding.

Commenting, Cori Crider, a lawyer for the Belhaj family at international human rights organization Reprieve, said:

The Belhaj family have had to fight for half a decade just for the basic right to British justice. This was perhaps the most shameful chapter of Britain’s part in the War on Terror: top MI6 officers helped abduct a pregnant woman and four children and sent them to Gaddafi’s torture chambers. The Government could have closed this sad chapter years ago—all it had to do was apologise. Instead MI6 has fought bitterly to dodge any trial of their role in CIA torture. All this has meant is that today, in the Trump era, MI6 officers risk getting sucked into American lawbreaking and barbarism all over again. We look forward to learning the results from the Supreme Court.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org

2. The case is listed on the UK Supreme Court website here.