New litigation filed in ‘ghost prisoner’ rendition case

August 19, 2009

Reprieve has formally launched legal action in the British High Court and the Supreme Court of the British Indian Ocean Territory on behalf of ‘ghost prisoner’ Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni.

Seized in Jakarta in January 2002, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni was rendered to torture and incommunicado detention in Cairo via Diego Garcia, an island under the legal auspices of Britain, and subsequently held in Bagram and Guantánamo Bay. By the time he was finally released without charge on 31st August 2008, Mr Madni was unable to walk unaided and continues to suffer debilitative psychological scarring from his ordeal.

Reprieve and Leigh Day and Co. sent a letter before action to the British Government on 13th July 2009, demanding more information about crimes committed against Mr Madni, in order to allow Mr Madni the possibility of legal redress. The Government have failed to provide any substantive response to the requests made.

The Government asked that we refrain from issuing proceedings until they are able to respond substantively. However, they failed to provide even a putative timescale for such a response. The Government has had over a month to respond to the formal letter before action and has been aware of the issue of the identity of the individuals rendered through Diego Garcia (and public pressure for these details to be disclosed) for well over a year.

In addition, it is clear that the Government’s handling of the Diego Garcia scandal so far has been consistently misleading, to both Parliament and the public.

Mr Madni is not prepared for this issue to drag on indefinitely. It is his only realistic opportunity to publicly establish the facts of his suffering and to possibly achieve some redress.

Leigh Day and Co. and Reprieve have therefore now served formal action against the British Government, both in the British High Court and the Supreme Court of the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Full documents submitted to court, including witness statements, are available here.

Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith said:

“The fact that the British Government was so eager to accept US “assurances” regarding illegal renditions on British territory, with no investigation of their own, is extremely worrying. The least they can do now is to disclose to Mr Madni the truth about his own mistreatment at the hands of American personnel, mistreatment in which Britain was indirectly complicit.”

Mr Madni said:

“I wish to make it clear that I do not seek revenge, I simply seek the truth, so that this does not happen to anyone else, and some modicum of justice so that I may start to rebuild my life.”


Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and has been made available to the US for defence purposes since 1967. Since then, the only inhabitants have been UK and US military personnel and civilian contract employees.

In June 2004, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said:

“The United States have repeatedly assured us that no detainees have at any time passed through Diego Garcia or its territorial waters or have disembarked there and that the allegations to that effect are totally without foundation. The Government is satisfied that their assurances are correct.”

These assurances were false. In February 2008, David Miliband was forced to admit that on two separate occasions “a plane with a single detainee on board refuelled at the US facility in Diego Garcia”. Reprieve identified one of these detainees as Mr Madni.

Mr Madni has described how he was transported from Jakarta to Egypt tightly shackled in a “coffin-shaped wooden box”. After several hours in the air, his plane stopped at a location now believed to be Diego Garcia for refuelling. During the stopover, he was aware of people entering the plane and photographing him, as the camera flashes were partially visible through the hood that covered his face and head. After about 30 minutes the plane took off again.

In Cairo, Mr Madni was refused medical treatment despite the fact that he was bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears and there was blood in his urine as a result of his treatment in Indonesia. He was placed in an underground cell “smaller than a grave”, from which he was frequently removed to undergo intense interrogation sessions, at which US personnel were present. During these sessions he was given electric shocks, hung from metal hooks and beaten. On three occasions he was forced to drink tea laced with drugs that caused him to become extremely disorientated.

In Afghanistan, he was hung from the ceiling with his feet barely touching the ground for long periods. This is a torture technique known as the strappado, favoured by the Spanish Inquisition. He was regularly beaten and the Koran was desecrated in front of him.

At Guantánamo Mr Madni was subjected to sleep deprivation and a technique that the CIA calls the ‘frequent flyer programme’, in which a prisoner is moved from cell to cell every few hours. Medical treatment was still withheld as a reward for ‘cooperation’. Mr Madni, not being a member of any terrorist organizations and thus not in possession of significant information, was unable to ‘cooperate’ in this way.

As a result of his experiences in US secret prisons, Mr Madni is now mentally and physically debilitated. He is seeking the disclosure of material held by the Secretary of State or within his control that evidences his extraordinary rendition through Diego Garcia and that would assist him in identifying and bringing proceedings against those US (and, if applicable, UK) personnel involved in his detention unlawful rendition and torture.


Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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