Supreme Court hears challenge by torture victims over MI6-backed rendition

The Supreme Court will today hear a landmark challenge to attempts by the UK government to conceal the role of a top MI6 officer in illegal renditions to Libya.

Five Supreme Court justices will consider the scope of controversial powers for the first time, after Boris Johnson applied to keep key details secret.

The challenge is being brought by Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar who were kidnapped, tortured by the CIA , and rendered to Libya with the knowledge and assistance of MI6 in 2004. The couple are challenging the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to charge a former senior MI6 officer, Sir Mark Allen, over his involvement in their ordeal.

The Foreign Secretary, as the minister responsible for the foreign intelligence service, has applied to hold parts of the case behind closed doors under powers in the Justice and Security Act 2013. Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar, their lawyers, journalists and the public would all be banned from attending these hearings.

These powers were granted by Parliament for use in non-criminal proceedings and the Supreme Court will be asked to rule that they cannot be used in a legal action relating to a potential prosecution of an MI6 officer.

Cori Crider, attorney for Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar at Reprieve, said: “A former top MI6 officer should not be able to avoid accountability to the public by hiding behind powers that were never intended for this purpose.

“The government hopes to whisper in the judge’s ear about the real reason Sir Mark Allen was let off the hook for his role in the rendition of a pregnant woman and her husband.

“But criminal matters were explicitly excluded from the Justice and Security Act, and rightly so. With something this serious we, the British public, have a right to demand justice is done.”

Solicitor Rosa Curling, from the Human Rights Team at Leigh Day, who is representing the couple, said: “Mr Belhaj and Mrs Boudchar began their legal action in this country because they believed it was a fair, open and transparent legal system in which they could seek justice for their kidnap and torture.

“I hope this hearing will see their belief in the UK justice system was well founded and that cases relating to criminal causes or matters cannot be closed off from open justice.”

Photo credit: UK Supreme Court