The UK Supreme Court [official website] on Monday began hearings in the case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who claims the British government assisted in his 2004 rendition by US forces. Belhaj and his wife were arrested in Bangkok in 2004 and returned to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, where he spent six years in prison. Belhaj first filed his lawsuit [JURIST report] in 2012. In 2013 the British High Court threw out the claim, stating that hearing the claim was barred by the Acts of State doctrine. However, in October 2014, the Court of Appeals found that the claim is not barred [JURIST report] because “it falls within a limitation on grounds of public policy in cases of violations of international law and fundamental human rights.” The court stated that while the Acts of State doctrine is valid, it does not stop a British court from examining whether British agencies, officials or ministers were separately culpable. The case will be heard [BBC report] by seven judges over four days, who will decide whether Belhaj can sue the British government, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), known as MI6 [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 would not complete their investigation [JURIST report]. Later that year, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans for an investigation into collusion [JURIST report] between MI6, the overseas British Security Service and the Libyan Security Services regarding the treatment of former Guantanamo Bay detainees. Accusations of MI6 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.