NGOs urge Court of Appeal to preserve access to justice in torture claims

JUSTICE joins together with the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International and REDRESS (“the Interveners”) to urge the Court of Appeal to reconsider the High Court’s decision to strike-out the case of Belhaj & Anor v Straw & Ors.

The Interveners regret that the High Court judgment in this case may immunise the United Kingdom Government and its officials from judicial scrutiny in cases where they are alleged to have acted unlawfully, including in circumstances where they may have committed gross violations of human rights law. The High Court judgment could see claims blocked in any case where individuals are alleged to have acted in tandem, in parallel or in collusion with a third state. This approach would undermine the common law right to a hearing, the international rule of law, and the specific obligations of the UK to secure the right to an effective remedy and redress for torture victims (as protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the UN Convention Against Torture).

JUSTICE and the other intervening NGOs argue that neither the common law doctrine of foreign act of state on which the High Court based its decision nor the law of state immunity prevent the court from adjudicating indirectly upon the acts of foreign states where breaches of fundamental human rights are in claims against the UK Government and its officials.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Arbitrary Detention have also been granted permission to intervene. The case will be heard in the Court of Appeal over three days during the week beginning 21 July 2014.

JUSTICE and the other NGOs are kindly represented pro-bono by Martin Chamberlain QC and Zahra Al-Rikabi of Brick Court Chambers.


Read the joint NGO intervention