Couple win ruling in payout case

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Libyan politician Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife have won the latest round in their bid to win damages over their rendition to Tripoli.

In December last year, Mr Justice Simon ruled that their case against former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, ex-head of counter-terrorism at MI6, should be struck out.

But, in July, lawyers for the couple told the Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Lady Justice Sharp in the Court of Appeal that it was not beyond the jurisdiction of the High Court

Today, the judges said that the proceedings were not barred by state immunity and, although the act of state doctrine was engaged, the proceedings fell within a limitation to the doctrine on grounds of public policy applicable in cases of violation of international law and fundamental human rights.

The couple want compensation and declarations of illegality arising out of the UK’s alleged participation in their abduction, detention and rendition in March 2004 and their alleged mistreatment.

Their claims are “stayed” pending the outcome of an appeal by the the defence to the Supreme Court.

Mr Belhaj, a leading figure in the rebel forces before Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was killed, claims that British intelligence was responsible for providing information that facilitated their rendition.

The case covers a period from when the couple were detained by Chinese authorities at Beijing airport for two days before being deported to Malaysia and held for two weeks, then flown to Thailand, ostensibly en route to London, and later taken to Libya on an aircraft said to be owned by a CIA front company.

Mr Belhaj says that, in Bangkok, they were detained by American intelligence and he was tortured while his pregnant wife was chained to a wall. When they got to Tripoli, he spent six years in jail and his wife was released shortly before giving birth.

Mr Justice Simon concluded “with hesitation” that the defendants were correct in saying that the case put forward against them depended on the court having to decide that the conduct of US officials acting outside the United States was unlawful, in circumstances where there were no clear and incontrovertible standards for doing so and where there was incontestable evidence that such an inquiry would be damaging to the national interest.

The Government was said to be liable on the principles of secondary liability by acquiescing, assisting, encouraging and conspiring in what happened.

There was no allegation against any UK official or that any detention or mistreatment took place in the UK or in UK-controlled territory, and it was not claimed that either claimant had any connection with the UK.

Published: Thursday 30th October 2014 by The News Editor

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