Government rolls back Ken Clarke’s secret courts claims in Libyan renditions case

October 21, 2013

A senior Foreign Office official was today questioned over the Government’s attempts to have a case concerning MI6 involvement in rendition and torture thrown out of court – a position at odds with Cabinet minister Ken Clarke’s claim that he would “like to know what the outcome is” in such cases.

Today saw the start of a three-day hearing at the High Court in the case brought by Libyan Gaddafi opponent Abdul-Hakim Belhadj and his wife Fatima Boudchar against the UK Government for its role in their kidnap and torture.

The couple were kidnapped in 2004 – when Ms Boudchar was heavily pregnant – and forcibly transferred to Libya in a joint MI6-CIA-Libyan operation.  Both were subsequently imprisoned and Mr Belhadj suffered years of torture.

The Government is arguing that the case should not be heard – even though Ken Clarke claimed, in support of the 2013 Justice and Security Act, that such cases would be very rare but that it was important that they be tried:   “The number of such cases is small, but the issues they raise are very significant. The majority relate to allegations such as false imprisonment, mistreatment, misfeasance in public office and complicity in rendition. It is vital that the state is not above the rule of law, and it is right that if wrongdoing has occurred, it should be exposed in a court of law.”

He also stated that “I, as a citizen, would like to know what the outcome is of the judge’s decision on the arguments being made against the intelligence services or by the Government in favour of the intelligence services.”

Cori Crider, Strategic Director at Reprieve, said: “The government fought bitterly to push its secret courts plan through by insisting that rendition cases would then go to trial. Yet now that the government has had its way and secret courts are on the books, this argument has vanished.  Their lawyers are still asking the Courts to avert their eyes from a conspiracy to render a pregnant woman to Gaddafi. The claim is as false today as it was then: the purpose of all these manoeuvres is, and always was, to keep these issues well away from British justice.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. Mr Clarke’s comments were made to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, in Oral Evidence given on 6 March 2012; and in a written response to the Committee’s report, published in January 2013: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm85/8533/8533.pdf