Law Lords 'allowed Saudis to torture Britons'

Click to follow

Britain's highest court has been condemned by human rights groups who said it had allowed Saudi Arabia to get away with the torture of British citizens.

The House of Lords ruled yesterday that four men who say they suffered serious abuse in Saudi jails cannot sue those responsible because foreign officials are protected by the State Immunity Act.

Tony Blair faced questions in the Commons yesterday over the Law Lords' ruling. His government had intervened in the case to support the State Immunity Act after Saudi Arabia went to the House of Lords to challenge a ruling in the Court of Appeal in October 2004 allowing the men to sue for damages.

The Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh asked what "meaningful" legal redress there was for Britons tortured abroad in the light of the ruling. The Prime Minister replied: "We intervened in this particular case in order to ensure that the rules of international law and state immunity are fully and accurately presented and upheld.

"That is something that is obviously important for us as a country... But our strong position against torture remains unchanged. We utterly condemn it in every set of circumstances."

Sandy Mitchell, from Glasgow, Les Walker, from the Wirral, and Bill Sampson, a Briton who had emigrated to Canada, were arrested six years ago after terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia. They claimed they were tortured into admitting responsibility. The fourth man, Ron Jones, from Crawley, was seized after being injured in one of the blasts. They are expected to take their case to the European Court of Justice.