The London appeal court judges ruled that a Libyan man can sue the United Kingdom government over claims he was illegally sent back to Libya to be tortured by the then ruling Gaddafi regime, writes Adel Darwish.
Abdul-Hakim Belhaj last year started a three-pronged legal action against the British Government, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the intelligence service MI6, for conspiring to illegally arrange for the rendition from China of he and his wife in 2004. Belhaj is calling for an apology, public admission of wrongdoing and three pounds sterling in symbolic compensation. The High Court, covering such matters in England and Wales, ruled that the case could not be heard in the UK because it could damage foreign relationships. However, at the end of October, Appeal Court judges said the claims were so “grave” a court should hear them.
Mr Belhaj, now a politician in Libya, said: “My wife and I are gratified by the judges’ decision to give us our day in court,” adding their alleged torture was “as fresh and as painful for us as if it happened yesterday”.
His lawyer Sapna Malik said it was “very significant step forward” to the case being heard in England.
Mr Straw, who has previously denied being aware of the rendition, and the government, have been given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Foreign Office said it was considering whether to make an application. The case would not be heard until after any further appeals.
Mr Belhaj built his case on documents found in the former Libyan intelligence offices and some papers taken from the British embassy in Tripoli during the breakdown of law and order following the fall of colonel Gaddafi in 2012. They claim letters exchanged with Libyan officials in 2004 were signed by Mr Straw. Both Belhaj and his wife were arrested in Pakistan while in transit, allegedly on the basis of a tip-off from the MI6, and were rerouted to Libya where he was allegedly tortured by Colonel Gaddafi’s men. Belhaj further claims that an official with an English accent was present during his interrogation in a Libyan prison.