Yunus Rahmatullah can sue Government over alleged rendition, High Court rules

Major legal blow for Government

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A Pakistani man can sue the British Government over claims that he was detained unlawfully by UK soldiers before being held by American forces without charge for a decade, the High Court has ruled.

Yunus Rahmatullah, who was only released from custody this summer, was captured by British special forces in Iraq in 2004 and then allegedly transferred to American custody in the knowledge he faced further unlawful detention and torture.

The Ministry of Defence had argued his case could not be heard in the British courts because it risked damaging relations with a foreign state, in this case the United States.

But in the latest blow to the Government over a growing number of claims brought against it by alleged victims of rendition by Britain, the High Court dismissed the argument and said it would be “failing in its duty” if it did not deal with Mr Rahmatullah’s case.

Mr Justice Legatt said: “If it is necessary to adjudicate on whether acts of US personnel were lawful… in order to decide whether the defendants violated the claimant’s legal rights, then the court can and must do so.”

The ruling effectively means that a British court will have to consider whether American personnel broke the law in order to establish whether British forces infringed Mr Rahmatullah’s rights when he was arrested and surrendered to US custody.

The Pakistani claims that he was mistreated and tortured while in detention, including being beaten on the soles of his feet and immersed in tanks of water.

The ruling follows a similar finding last month that Libyan politician Abdel Hakim Belhaj can sue the Government after he was abducted and sent to Tripoli in a joint MI6-CIA operation in 2004.

Kat Craig, director at legal charity Reprieve, said: “The fact is that victims of British rendition and torture, like Yunus, deserve their day in court - the Government must accept this and be prepared to answer for its past actions.”