Abdel Hakim Belhaj: justice barred for Libyan dissident, say lawyers

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UK effort to reject case of Libyan and wife, seized with MI6 help then abused by Gaddafi agents, called political expediency

Britain’s intelligence agencies want to prevent a leading Libyan dissident and his pregnant wife, who were abducted with the help of MI6 and then tortured, from seeking justice because of “political embarrassment”, the high court heard on Wednesday.

Court documents released on behalf of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his Moroccan-born wife, Fatima Bouchar, say the government’s attempt to get the case thrown out is “incompatible with the rule of law and has grave constitutional implications”.

The documents say that if the government were right, it would “leave anyone who is a victim of torture without any remedy if another state was involved in some way in the conduct”.

Lawyers acting for MI6, a former senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw, and MI5, argue that since the abduction took place abroad and involved officials from other countries, they had no case to answer in a British court.

However, Richard Hermer QC, Belhaj’s counsel, said the traditional doctrine of state immunity from prosecution did not cover torture and other human rights abuses. He told Mr Justice Simon the government was deploying a “doctrine of political embarrassment”.

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