UK Supreme Court hears Libyan opposition rendition case

UK Supreme Court hears case of Libyan former commander, opponent of Gaddafi regime, accuses UK government of delivering him to Libya

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Abdul Hakim Belhaj at a press conference

Updated Nov 12, 2015

The United Kingdom’s top court began hearings in a landmark case involving a Libyan man, who is an opposition member in Libya, and his wife, regarding the claim of their case that they were abducted and handed over to the Gaddafi regime in 2004 by a British intelligence service with the cooperation of American intelligence services.

The British Supreme Court began hearing the case of this man, named Abdul Hakim Belhaj, and his wife on Monday, which consisted of their claim against the British government, in where they accused the British government of conspiring with the CIA, in Belhaj's rendition to Libya, to torture them in 2004.

The case has been brought forth by Belhaj, who is a former Libyan military commander who fled from the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 1998.

Belhaj claims that the British former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the MI6 (military Intelligence, Section 6) were “co-conspirators” of illegal detention and torture of him and his wife Fatima Boudchar in 2004 while transferring from China to Malaysia then to Thailand and then finally to Libya.

Boudchar who was several months pregnant at the time says that she was abused in prison and had fears of losing her baby.

British agents had interrogated Belhaj twice in Libya and he is now seeking damages and a declaration of illegality from the court. 

Lawyers of Jack Straw and a former MI6 chief Mark Allen had denied allegations and any illegal conduct that is related with the Official Secrets Act, which provides protection of state secrets and official information, mainly related to national security.

​ UK's former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw allegedly was complicitly in torture of detainees / Photo by Reuters

After the fall of Gaddafi, some files were recovered from his archives, in where some involved Mark Allen congratulating the Libyan regime for the “safe arrival” of Belhaj saying "This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built up over recent years," he is said to have written. "The intelligence about [referring to Belhaj] was British."

The Supreme Court ruled in December 2013 that the lawsuit fell outside the jurisdiction of the English courts because of lack of evidence on the case because of the “Foreign Act of State” doctrine.

This rendition of Belhaj's was allegedly determined with the assistance of other countries including the US. 

The Foreign Act of State doctrine is a legal principle that means an English court will not inquire into the legality of the acts of a foreign government within the territory of the foreign state.

The Supreme Court turned the case over to the Court of Appeal by saying British courts should hear allegations about the case saying they are concerned with people who “are either current or former officers or officials of state in the United Kingdom government departments or agencies.”

Belhaj accuses MI6 of providing intelligence about his locations to the Gaddafi regime and claims that the UK was aware of US-operated mechanisms called “black sites” where allegedly non-official locations or facilities of people are provided by a host country to the CIA.

The Supreme Court will soon decide if the couple can sue the British government or not.

Last year the Court of Appeal ruled there was great public interest in this case given the “very grave” nature of the claims.

“The stark reality is that unless the English courts are able to exercise jurisdiction in this case, these very grave allegations against the executive will never be subjected to judicial investigation,” the Court of Appeal said.

Lawyer of Belhaj, Sapna Malik said “The Court of Appeal last year recognised the gravity of the allegations raised by our clients and we are confident that the Supreme Court will also agree that it is the constitutional duty of the English courts to deal with such important cases, despite these attempts to shield the conduct of the security services from judicial scrutiny.”

The case has been postponed to a later date.


TRTWorld and agencies