Plea to throw out rendition case
Monday 21st October 2013, 4:52PM BST.
The Government is asking a High Court judge to throw out damages claims brought by a Libyan politician and his wife over their rendition to Tripoli.
Mr Justice Simon was told that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the cases brought by Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Moroccan Fatima Boudchar against former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, ex-head of counter-terrorism at MI6, or they were non-justiciable.
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.
Mr Belhaj, a leading figure in the rebel forces before Colonel Gaddafi was killed, clai ms that British intelligence was responsible for providing information that facilitated their rendition.
At the beginning of a three-day hearing in London, Rory Phillips QC said the fact that issues of law were to be determined did not mean that the Government accepted the truth of the allegations.
The claims cover 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 before being 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 Phillips said that the alleged unlawful detention and mistreatment was carried out by officers of the states concerned – none of whom were defendants in the action – and not the UK authorities.
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.
“The fundamental issue is that none of the claims advanced, save for part of the claim in negligence, is capable of amounting to an allegation of unlawful conduct unless the foreign state which allegedly detained or mistreated the claimants themselves acted unlawfully, and are found to have done so.”
The realities at the core of the claims concerned “alleged acts by foreign states outside this country”, said Mr Phillips.