MI6 get the High Court to throw out Belhaj case

UK court ditches Belhaj case for MI6

Sat, 21 Dec 2013 22:47:07 GMT

A British High Court judge has thrown out Libyan activist Abdul-Hakim Belhaj’s case in favor of the country’s foreign spying apparatus, MI6, which kidnapped him in a joint operation with CIA in Thailand in 2004.

Judge Peregrine Simon ruled that although Belhaj had a “well-founded claim” against intelligence officers, who unlawfully abducted him in a joint MI6-CIA operation in 2004, he cannot sue the UK government in an English court out of concerns that the case could undermine London-Washington relations.

The judge ditched the case because the US and the UK officials were involved in the rendition of Belhaj and his pregnant wife to Libya in 2004; therefore, the case could “jeopardize this country’s international relations and national security interests,” he said.

The then Libyan dissident who was appointed Tripoli’s military commander in 2011 was formerly the emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). He was detained in Bangkok in 2004 following a tip-off from the British spying apparatus MI6, and was subjected to CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” to Libya, where he was tortured at the notorious Abu Salim jail under Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. It came after the rebels took over Tripoli and the Libyan leader was ousted from power.

Belhaj launched legal action against the UK government, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6 Mark Allen, and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. In March, the Libyan activist offered to settle his case for only £3 and an apology.

The judge explained that he ruled “with hesitation,” as there appeared to be a “potentially well-founded claim that the UK authorities were directly implicated in the extra-ordinary rendition of the claimants.”

“Parliamentary oversight and criminal investigations are not adequate substitutes for access to, and a decision by, the court,” he added.

The judge mentioned he had to decide that “the conduct of US officials acting outside the US was unlawful, in circumstances where there are no clear and incontrovertible standards for doing so and where there is incontestable evidence that such an inquiry would be damaging to the national interest.”

According to Belhaj, however, the judge “was obviously horrified by what happened to my wife and I,” while the solicitor representing him at firm Leigh Day said that “if this judgment stands, it will mean that anything our security services do alongside the US government is totally immune from the British legal system, even if MI6 officers arrange the rendition of a pregnant woman into the arms of Gaddafi.”

Amnesty International described it as an “extremely disappointing decision.”

“We’re increasingly concerned that there’s never going to be any genuine accountability for the UK’s involvement in torture and other ill-treatment overseas. Avenues of investigation and redress are being closed down rapidly, despite these being incredibly serious allegations about UK officials’ involvement in torture and other ill-treatment,” Amnesty official John Dalhuisen said.

“Very general arguments about national security are being used to prevent the truth coming out and justice being done. There can be no immunity for serious human rights violations,” he added.

Meanwhile, the lawyers for prominent Libyan activist Belhaj said in October that the UK government’s electronic spying agency, GCHQ, has been tapping their privileged communications and phone conversations.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Belhaj sought an immediate injunction from the investigatory powers tribunal, saying that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is intercepting their communications.

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