Rendition to Libya an “act of state” and therefore non-justiciable

gaddafi_2036309cBelhaj and another v Straw and Others [2013] EWHC 4111 (QB) 20 December 2013 – read judgment

Peter Skelton of 1 Crown Office Row acted for the defendants in this case. He has nothing to do with the writing of this post.

The High Court has struck out claims against British establishment defendants for “unlawful rendition”.  The doctrine of immunity attaching to an act of state is  total bar to that such claims and is not limited by the gravity of the alleged violation of rights.

Factual background

The first claimant, an opponent of the Gaddafi regime, and his wife, the second claimant, had been apprehended in Bangkok in 2004 whilst trying to travel from Beijing to the UK to claim asylum. They were held in a detention centre in Kuala Lumpur for two weeks and whilst they were there the UK authorities, along with the US, the Malaysians and the Chinese, worked together to secure their extradition to Libya (this was a time when friendly relations were maintained between the UK and the Libyan government).   After another journey to Bangkok, where they were detained in a US “black site”, they were flown to Tripoli  and transported to Tajoura prison, a detention facility operated by the Libyan intelligence services. The second claimant was released later in 2004, but the first claimant was transferred to another prison and held until 2010. Continue reading

Extraordinary rendition gets to Strasbourg – a right to the truth

ciaEl-Masri v. The Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia, Grand Chamber of ECtHR, 13 December 2012, read judgment

In a hard-hitting judgment, the 17 judges of the Grand Chamber found Macedonia (FYROM) responsible for the extraordinary rendition of Mr El-Masri, a German national, by the CIA to Afghanistan. We have all seen the films and read about this process – but even so the account given by the Court is breath-taking. And in so doing, most of the members of the Court made explicit reference to the importance of a right to the truth – not simply for El-Masri, the applicant, but for other victims, and members of the public generally. And the story is all the more chilling because the whole episode appears to have been caused by mistaken identity. 

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Extraordinary rendition, forced labour, and evidence obtained by torture – Antoine Buyse

Building on Abu Qatada

There are three cases, among the many decided by the Court in the past few weeks, which I would like to highlight. They deal with testimony potentially obtained through torture, forced labour and extraordinary rendition respectively. 

The first is the case of El Haski v. Belgium (available only in French). It deals with a terrorist suspect against whom evidence obtained in Morocco during legal proceedings there (following the 2003 Casablanca bombings) was used in court in Belgium. It was unclear whether such evidence was in fact obtained by means of torture. The Court held that it was sufficient for exclusion of such evidence from trial in an ECHR state party if a suspect could show that there was a “real risk” that such evidence had been obtained by treatment contrary to Article 3. The case builds on the recent Othman (Abu Qatada) v. the United Kingdom judgment, from January of this year. In this case, such a real risk existed. The refusal by Belgian courts to exclude the evidence thus led to a violation of the right to a fair trial (Article 6 ECHR).

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Security bodies, private emails: parallels between the UK and US – Robin Hopkins

Today was one of striking parallels between the USA and the UK in terms of litigation concerned with access to information.

APPGER and security bodies

First, one of The Independent‘s main stories this morning concerned a case brought in the US by the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition (APPGER). Readers will recall that in the UK, APPGER was partially successful before the Upper Tribunal last year; the decision of the First-Tier Tribunal in a second case (the hearing of which concluded in February 2012) is awaited.

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