UK VIOLATED IRAQIS’ FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS – rules European Court

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Demonstration in London in February 2009 demanding the release of Binyam Mohamed from Guantanamo prison where he was incarcerated after his rendition and torture
Demonstration in London in February 2009 demanding the release of Binyam Mohamed from Guantanamo prison where he was incarcerated after his rendition and torture

In a double blow to the UK Government, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has held that ‘the three-year internment of our client Hilal Abdul-Razzaq Ali Al Jedda in Basra, Iraq, violated his fundamental rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)’, says Public Interest Lawyers (PIL).

PIL added at the weekend: ‘The UK detained hundreds of other civilians in Iraq without charge in similar circumstances.

‘This judgment followed the historic ruling in the case of Al Skeini which held that the ECHR applied in Basra during the occupation and that the UK had failed to investigate a number of deaths of Iraqi civilians.

Facts of the Case

‘Mr Al-Jedda was born in Iraq in 1957. He came to the United Kingdom in 1992 and claimed asylum. In June 2000 he was granted British citizenship. In September 2004 he travelled to Iraq with his family.

‘On 10 October 2004 he was arrested at his sister’s house and taken to a British detention facility in Basra known as Shaibah. During his arrest and subsequent detention he alleges that he was seriously tortured and abused by British forces.

‘The British authorities maintain that his detention was necessary for imperative reasons of security, and allege that he was involved in terrorism. Mr Al-Jedda vehemently denies those allegations and no criminal charges have ever been brought against him.

‘However, he remained in British custody in Iraq for over three years. On 14 December 2007 the Home Secretary signed an order depriving Mr Al-Jedda of his British citizenship and on 30 December 2007 Mr Al-Jedda was released from custody.

‘On his release Mr Al-Jedda travelled to Turkey where he remains today. He continues to fight to regain his British nationality.

The Ruling

‘The European Court decided on Thursday that Mr Al-Jedda’s three-year detention without charge was unlawful and in breach of Article 5 (1) of the ECHR which protects an individual’s fundamental right to be free from arbitrary detention.

‘In taking this decision, the Court held that:

‘1. The internment of Mr Al-Jedda was attributable to the UK and not the United Nations as the UK government had argued.

‘2. The United Security Council Resolution 1546 which authorised the UK to “take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq” did not require the UK to breach fundamental human rights.

‘There was, contrary to the UK government’s position, no obligation to indefinitely intern Mr Al-Jedda without charge and without any judicial guarantees. The Security Council Resolution was to be interpreted in a way which was most in harmony with the UK’s obligations under the European Convention.

‘In light of its finding, the UK government has been ordered to pay Mr Al-Jedda 25,000 Euros in damages and 40,000 Euros in legal costs.

‘The case is already being heralded as a landmark legal decision that will have huge ramifications for present and future conflicts.’

Phil Shiner, who leads the team at Public Interest Lawyers commented: ‘This is a landmark decision which confirms that the UK practice in Iraq of detaining civilians without charge for years on end was in clear violation of their fundamental rights.

‘We represent hundreds of clients who were similarly detained and we will now be seeking to ensure that they too receive the justice they deserve.’

Tessa Gregory, another solicitor at Public Interest lawyers added: ‘Our client was held for over three years without charge.

‘After being badly tortured and abused during his arrest and detention he was stripped of his British citizenship before being released onto the streets of Basra.

‘He has suffered enormously at the hands of the British Army and we are delighted that he will now receive some recompense.’

The European Court of Human Rights press statement said: ‘In the Grand Chamber judgment in the case Al-Jedda v the UK (application no 27021/08), which is final, the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of sixteen to one, that there had been:

‘A violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

‘The case concerned the internment of an Iraqi civilian for more than three years (2004-2007) in a detention centre in Basra, Iraq, run by British forces.’

The judgment was delivered on Thursday at a public hearing at the European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, shortly after 11.00am(local time).

Principal facts

‘The applicant, Hilal Abdul-Razzaq Ali Al-Jedda, born in Iraq in 1957, is an Iraqi national who is currently living in Istanbul, Turkey.

‘Mr Al-Jedda played for the Iraqi basketball team until, following his refusal to join the ruling Ba’ath Party, he left Iraq in 1978 and lived in the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. He moved to the United Kingdom (UK) in 1992, where he made a claim for asylum and was granted indefinite leave to remain. He was granted British nationality in June 2000.

‘In September 2004, Mr Al-Jedda and his four eldest children travelled from London to Iraq, via Dubai, where he was arrested and questioned by United Arab Emirates intelligence officers.

‘He was released after 12 hours, permitting him and his children to continue their journey to Iraq, where they arrived on 28 September 2004. On 10 October 2004 United States (US) soldiers, apparently acting on information provided by the British intelligence services, arrested Mr Al-Jedda at his sister’s house in Baghdad.

‘He was taken to Basra in a British military aircraft and then to the Shaibah Divisional Temporary Detention Facility in Basra City, a detention centre run by British forces. He was interned there for over three years until 30 December 2007.

‘At that time, the Iraqi Interim government was in power and the Multi-National Force, including British forces, remained in Iraq at the request of the government and with the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) authorisation.

‘Mr Al-Jedda’s internment was maintained by the British authorities as being necessary for imperative reasons of security in Iraq.

‘He was believed to have been personally responsible for: recruiting terrorists outside Iraq to commit atrocities there; helping an identified terrorist explosives expert travel into Iraq; conspiring with that explosives expert to conduct attacks with improvised explosive devices against coalition forces near Fallujah and Baghdad; and conspiring with the explosives expert and members of an Islamist terrorist cell in the Gulf to smuggle high-tech detonation equipment into Iraq for use in attacks against coalition forces.

‘The intelligence evidence supporting those allegations was not disclosed to him and no criminal charges were brought against him.

‘On 8th June 2005 Mr Al-Jedda brought a judicial review claim in the UK, challenging the lawfulness of his continued detention and also the refusal of the UK government to return him to the UK.

‘The government accepted that Mr Al-Jedda’s detention did not fall within any of the permitted cases set out in Article 5 § 1 of the Convention. However, he contended that Article 5 § 1 did not apply, because the detention was authorised by UNSC Resolution 1546 and that, as a matter of international law, the effect of the Resolution was to displace Article 5.

‘The case was eventually decided by the House of Lords on 17 December 2007. The House of Lords, by a majority, rejected the UK government’s argument that the UN, and not the UK, was responsible for the internment under international law.

‘The House of Lords also held, unanimously, that UNSC Resolution 1546 placed the UK under an obligation to intern individuals considered to threaten the security of Iraq and that, in accordance with Article 103 of the UN Charter, that obligation to the UNSC had to take primacy over the UK’s obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights not to hold anyone in internment without charge.

‘On 14 December 2007 the Home Secretary signed an order depriving Mr Al-Jedda of British citizenship, claiming, among other things, that he had connections with violent Islamist groups, in Iraq and elsewhere, and had been responsible for recruiting terrorists outside Iraq and facilitating their travel and the smuggling of bomb parts into Iraq.

‘Mr Al-Jedda was released on 30 December 2007 and travelled to Turkey. He appealed unsuccessfully against the loss of his British citizenship. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission accepted on the basis of undisclosed evidence that he had helped a terrorist explosives expert travel to Iraq and conspired with him to smuggle explosives into Iraq and to attack coalition forces around Fallujah and Baghdad.

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court

‘The applicant complained that he was interned by UK armed forces in Iraq between 10 October 2004 and 30 December 2007, in breach of Article 5 § 1. The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 3rd June 2008.

‘On 19 January 2010 the Chamber dealing with the case relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber, and on 9th June 2010 a public hearing was held in the Human Rights building in Strasbourg.’

Judgment was given by the Grand Chamber of 17, composed as follows:

Jean-Paul Costa (France), President, Christos Rozakis (Greece), Nicolas Bratza (the UK), Françoise Tulkens (Belgium), Josep Casadevall (Andorra), Dean Spielmann (Luxembourg), and Giovanni Bonello (Malta).