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UK law lords reject westerners' bid to sue Saudi officials for torture

[JURIST] The UK law lords ruled [opinion] Wednesday that three British men and one Canadian man who claim to have been tortured in Saudi Arabian jails [BBC report] after confessing to participating in a series of terrorist bombings [BBC backgrounder] in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2000 and 2001 cannot sue Saudi officials responsible for their imprisonment in British courts because the officials are covered by state immunity. Wednesday's decision overturns a 2004 decision [opinion; JURIST report] allowing the four men to bring lawsuits against the individual Saudi officials accused of torture, though not against the Saudi government. The Saudi government, however, appealed the Court of Appeal decision to the House of Lords in April, seeking immunity for the officials under the 1978 State Immunity Act [text]. The UK government intervened [JURIST report] on behalf of the Saudi government in April.

The four men - Britons Ron Jones, Sandy Mitchell, Less Walker and Canadian Bill Sampson - plan to appeal the Law Lords decision to the European Court of Human Rights [official website], saying their imprisonment and subsequent torture violates European and international human rights law. The Law Lords [official website], however, stated that the case was not about torture, but rather about jurisdiction, adding that they will take steps to eradicate torture whenever possible. AP has more. BBC News has local coverage.

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