[JURIST] A British court ruled [judgment, PDF] Thursday that a former Libyan military commander can sue the British government for its alleged role in his detention and rendition. In 2004, Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife were arrested in Bangkok, Thailand and returned to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, where he spent years in prison. Belhaj first filed [JURIST report] the lawsuit in 2012. Last year the British High Court threw out the claim, saying it was not a matter for the British courts and barred by the Acts of State doctrine. However, on Thursday the Court of Appeal [official website] found that the claim is not barred because “it falls within a limitation on grounds of public policy in cases of violations of international law and fundamental human rights.” The court went on to state that “[u]nless the English courts were able to exercise jurisdiction in this case, these very grave allegations would go uninvestigated and the appellants would be left without any legal recourse or remedy.” Along with the British government, Belhaj is attempting to sue former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known as M16 [official website], for alleged complicity with American intelligence over his treatment.
UK officials have struggled with allegations of mistreatment of prisoners in recent years. In January 2012, the chairman of the UK Detainee Inquiry [official website], a panel created to investigate illegal renditions and other allegations of misconduct, announced that his panel will not complete their investigation [JURIST report]. Later that year, UK Prime Minister David Cameron [official website] announced plans [JURIST report] for an investigation into collusion between MI6, the overseas British Security Service and the Libyan Security Services regarding the treatment of former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. Accusations of M16 sending detainees to knowingly be tortured by Libyan security services prompted Cameron to instruct the Detainee Inquiry to examine the issue. The Detainee inquiry was established [JURIST report] in July 2010, to investigate claims that British government agents were complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects held overseas.