UK Govt attempts to push rendition case out of High Court
The High Court will tomorrow (Tues 11 November) consider whether a case concerning UK involvement in rendition and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan should be heard.
Judges will hear arguments from lawyers for Yunus Rahmatullah, who was seized in Iraq in 2004 by British forces before being handed over to the US, who rendered him to Bagram prison in Afghanistan. During his ordeal Mr Rahmatullah was subjected to torture on multiple occasions, held at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and held without charge or trial for a decade in Afghanistan before his release earlier this year.
Lawyers for the UK Government however are arguing that the case should not be heard, as to do so would damage relations with the USA. The legal team for Mr Rahmatullah – who is being assisted by the charity Reprieve and solicitors Leigh Day – are expected to point to the testimony of a former senior US diplomat who believes that the Government’s argument is false.
Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who represented the USA at the UN under George HW Bush and served for four decades as a diplomat, states in written testimony that that “I firmly believe that adjudicating Mr Rahmatullah’s case in UK courts is highly unlikely to cause damage to the relations or national security cooperation between the US and UK." Pickering further said that the UK Government’s claims “misunderstand the value the United States places on the rule of law.”
Tomorrow’s case also comes in the wake of a recent Court of Appeal ruling that a separate renditions case should be heard, despite similar claims by the British Government that doing so would damage US-UK relations. In Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and anor v Jack Straw and ors , the judges ruled that “the stark reality is that unless the English courts are able to exercise jurisdiction in this case, these very grave allegations against the executive will never be subjected to judicial investigation,” and the case should therefore go ahead.
Reprieve legal director, Kat Craig said: “The Government’s desperate attempts to duck responsibility for its role in rendition and torture are fast becoming a national embarrassment. Seemingly no-one – not even a former senior US Ambassador – sees their claims that this case would damage UK relations with the US as at all credible. On top of that, the Court of Appeal dismissed the same argument in a similar renditions case just last month. It seems everyone except our own political masters has noticed that the cat is already out of the bag. Ministers must remove the road-blocks to this crucial case, and allow it to be heard.”
Notes to editors
1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161.
2. The hearing will take place tomorrow (Tuesday 11 November) at 1030 GMT at the Royal Courts of Justice, Court 14.