Belhaj v. Straw: UK Court of Appeal allows torture claims to proceed

The UK Court of Appeal has handed down its judgment (full text) in the case brought by Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife against the UK’s alleged role in their abduction, rendition to Libya, and mistreatment at the hands of US and other foreign officials in 2004. In December last year, the High Court had struck out the civil lawsuit on the basis that the act of state doctrine prevented the court from determining the claims.

The Court of Appeal rejects the government’s argument that the doctrine of state immunity prevents the claims from being heard in UK courts. The Court also rules that the act of state doctrine does not preclude the claim [paragraphs 114-121]. Citing, among other reasons, the universal condemnation of torture and the “stark reality” that these allegations will escape judicial investigation unless English courts are able to exercise jurisdiction in this case, the Court finds that:

“[T]he present case falls within the established limitation on the act of state doctrine imposed by considerations of public policy on grounds of violations of human rights and international law and that there are compelling reasons requiring the exercise of jurisdiction.”

Stay tuned for further analysis and coverage of the case at Just Security. 

About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).