For Immediate Release
Hearing Friday Over Government Spying on Lawyer-Client Communications
This Friday the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) will hold a hearing over UK government spying on privileged lawyer-client communications.
LONDON - The hearing will discuss what remedies the government owes two families, victims of an MI6-CIA rendition operation, if the government spied on legally privileged communications between them and their lawyers.
Abdul Hakim-Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar were kidnapped, tortured and sent to Libya in 2004 in a joint MI6-CIA operation. A second rendition operation targeted Sami al-Saadi, his wife Karima Ait Baaziz, and their four children between the ages of six and twelve. Both families filed a case in 2013 with the IPT concerning alleged eavesdropping by UK intelligence services on their confidential communications with their lawyers.
In 2012, the Belhaj family had brought a separate, civil case against the UK Government over the part it played in their mistreatment. (The al-Saadis had filed a similar claim, which subsequently settled; both families are witnesses in an ongoing Scotland Yard investigation into the kidnappings.)
The IPT case centres around whether Government lawyers and officials involved in the torture case, through surveillance of the families’ communications with their lawyers at Reprieve and Leigh Day, accessed confidential communications about their legal cases, thereby giving the Government an unfair advantage in court.
Cori Crider, Reprieve Strategic Director and attorney for Mr Belhaj, said: “If the government has spied on these families’ private calls with their lawyers, we must know about it, and take steps to restore the families’ right to a fair trial. The government has admitted it ran unlawful policies on lawyer-client spying for years, including for the entire period our case was being prepared. This raises a number of stark questions: how much of our privileged material was collected? Who saw it? For how long were the involved in the torture claims? What of the police investigation – has that, too, been compromised? The government must be made to address these issues if confidence in the justice system is to be maintained.”
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.