By Libya Herald staff.
London, 21 July 2014:
Former revolutionary leader and now Islamist Al-Watan party leader Abdul-Hakim Belhaj is continuing his battle . . .[restrict]to sue the British government over his 2004 rendition, along with his wife, from Thailand to Libya.
Lawyers for Belhaj, backed by Amnesty International, have gone to the Appeal Court in London to challenge the High Court’s decision to throw out a case he had brought, against a former British foreign secretary and a top MI6 intelligence officer. Belhaj’s action was rejected on the grounds the court did not have jurisdiction over an event that occurred in another country.
Belhaj however claims that Jack Straw, who headed the Foreign Office in the then-Labour government, as well as Mark Allen, at the time a leading member of Britain’s foreign intelligence organisation MI6, were among others complicit in his abduction, illegal transfer to Qaddafi in Libya and his subsequent imprisonment and torture for six years in Abu Selim prison.
When last December the British High Court refused to hear the case, the judge admitted that he was “hesitant” in accepting the UK government’s argument. This had revolved around the “Act of State Doctrine” whereby UK judges had no power to judge the action of a foreign state on its own territory. Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, had been about to board a flight from Bangkok to London where they had been planning to claim political asylum. He was a leading commander of Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
He claims they were seized in a joint MI6 and CIA operation, then flown to Libya via the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia. Once he was brought back to Libya, Belhaj was incarcerated in Tripoli’s Abu Saleem prison for six years.
The judge, Peregrine Simon, also said Abdul-Hakim Belhaj had a “well-founded claim” but pursuing it would jeopardise national security.
Amnesty International was scathing of the High court judgement: “The government is really scraping the legal barrel with this latest attempt to dodge accountability for the UK’s alleged part in one of the most notorious crimes of the rendition programme,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
He added: “This makes a mockery of the law. How are courts ever to investigate allegations of rendition if governments are simply going to play the ‘act of state’ card?”
Dalhuisen said that the present British government led by David Cameron had promised to investigate the Belhaj case and others where the UK has allegedly been involved in rendition and torture.
“ Instead of combing the statute books for get-out clauses, the British government should be allowing this important case to run its course” said Dalhuisen.
Leave for Belhaj to take his case to appeal was given this February. The hearing is due to start this week. However the British government is now cross-appealing on the further grounds that “state immunity” also means that the claim cannot be heard.
In March last year, Belhaj said he would drop his legal action if the British government admitted involvement in his rendition and paid him the equivalent to six Libyan dinars.
In December 2012, a similar case about illegal rendition saw the British government pay LD 4 million to Sami Al-Saadi on the condition he dropped his action. It did not, however, admit any guilt or responsibility. [/restrict]