Thursday, March 17, 2022

Whose law did they think they were subject to?

During the war on terror, the US ran a program of extraordinary rendition, in which alleged terrorists were kidnapped, taken to foreign countries, and tortured for information. The British government colluded in this, both directly by assisting in kidnappings, and indirectly by providing questions for their torturing proxies to ask the victims. Now, their victims are suing. The British government's "defence" has been to claim that its spies weren't subject to British law when performing their official duties. The UK Court of Appeal's response? yeah, right:

UK intelligence services who allegedly asked the CIA to put questions to a detainee who was being tortured in “black sites” were subject to the law of England and Wales and not that of the countries in which he was being held, the court of appeal has ruled.

The three appeal judges were asked to decide whether Abu Zubaydah, who was subjected to extreme mistreatment and torture at secret CIA “black sites” in six different countries, has the right to sue the UK government in England.


In [Justice] Males’s written judgment, he said: “These are strong connections connecting the tortious conduct with England and Wales. They reflect also the parties’ reasonable expectations. While it is true that the claimant himself had no connection with this country, he could reasonably have expected, if he had thought about it during the 20 years in which he has been detained, that the conduct of any country’s security services having to do with him would be governed by the law of the country concerned. As for the services, they would reasonably have expected that their conduct here would be subject to English law.”

Which is obvious the moment you think about it. For a government to claim it is not bound by its own laws is simply absurd. But apparently nothing is too absurd when the British establishment is attempting to justify and excuse torture.

The path is now open for Abu Zubaydah to sue. And hopefully he will force the British government to admit its crimes and extract compensation for them. But the spies who colluded in torture and the Ministers who authorised that collusion shouldn't just be facing a civil suit - they should be facing criminal prosecution. And if the British government refuses to prosecute its own, well, there's a court in The Hague for that.