UK Supreme Court hears Libya rendition claim

The UK Supreme Court on Nov. 9 began hearings in the case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who claims the British government assisted in his 2004 rendition by US forces. Belhaj and his wife were arrested in Bangkok in 2004 and returned to Muammar Qaddafi's Libya, where he spent six years in prison. Belhaj first filed his lawsuit in 2012. In 2013 the British High Court threw out the claim, stating that hearing the claim was barred by the Acts of State doctrine. However, in October 2014, the Court of Appeals found that the claim is not barred because "it falls within a limitation on grounds of public policy in cases of violations of international law and fundamental human rights." The court stated that while the Acts of State doctrine is valid, it does not stop a British court from examining whether British agencies, officials or ministers were separately culpable. The case will be heard by seven judges over four days, who will decide whether Belhaj can sue the British government, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known as MI6, for alleged complicity with US intelligence over his treatment.

UK officials have struggled with allegations of mistreatment of prisoners in recent years. In January 2012 the chairman of the UK Detainee Inquiry, a panel created to investigate illegal renditions and other allegations of misconduct, announced that the panel would not complete its investigation. Later that year, Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans for an investigation into collusion between MI6 and the Libyan security services regarding treatment of former Guantánamo detainees. Accusations of MI6 sending detainees to knowingly be tortured by Libyan security services prompted Cameron to instruct the Detainee Inquiry panel to examine the issue. The panel was established in July 2010 to investigate claims that British government agents were complicit in torture of terrorism suspects held overseas.

From Jurist, Nov. 9. Used with permission.