For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Reprieve's London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at]

Libyan Torture Victims Win Permission to Appeal in Case Against UK Government

WASHINGTON - An anti-Gaddafi dissident and his wife have won permission to take their case against the UK Government – which played a central role in their 2004 kidnap and abuse – to the Court of Appeal.

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar were kidnapped and “rendered” to Colonel Gaddafi’s prisons in a joint MI6-CIA-Libyan operation a decade ago. Ms Boudchar, who was 5 months pregnant at the time, was chained to a wall and then taped to a stretcher during the ordeal, while Mr Belhaj suffered years of imprisonment and torture on his return to Libya.

Although the High Court last December found that the couple had a “potentially well-founded claim” that the UK had been “directly implicated” in their abuse, it ultimately ruled in favour of arguments advanced by Government lawyers that a large part of the case should not be heard for fear of damaging relations with the USA.

However, in the very same judgment High Court judge Mr Justice Simon expressed his “concern” that such a case might not be determined in a UK court, adding that “Parliamentary oversight and criminal investigations are not adequate substitutes for access to, and a decision by, the Court.”

Today’s result means that the case will now advance to the Court of Appeal.

Commenting, Reprieve legal director, Kat Craig said: “It would be a grim day for British justice if cases as serious as this were blocked in order to spare the blushes of the CIA. All Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar want are answers and an apology – indeed, they have offered to drop the case if the Government will just say sorry for what it did, and make them a token payment of £1. Instead, we have seen the Government’s lawyers doing everything they can to ensure this case is not heard, seeking to place the Government above the law. It is therefore welcome that this will now receive the hearing it deserves in the Court of Appeal.”

Sapna Malik from law firm Leigh Day said: "This judgment would have very worrying repercussions if it were to stand, effectively granting immunity to our security services and military from the British justice system for any joint operations they conduct with the US, however misconceived. Our clients will now look to the Court of Appeal to uphold the rule of law in respect of such operations.”


This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

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.

Share This Article

More in: