Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar

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Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, the head of an armed anti-Gaddafi group, and his pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar were seized in a joint CIA-MI6-Libyan operation in 2004. After torturing them at a black site in Bangkok, the CIA ‘rendered’ the couple to Libya. 

The couple sued former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, MI6’s former second-in-command, Sir Mark Allen, and the UK government.

In May 2018 Prime Minister Theresa May issued an unprecedented public apology to the couple, saying the UK was ‘profoundly sorry’ for their ‘appalling treatment.’

Faisal bin Ali Jaber

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Faisal bin Ali Jaber is a Yemeni environmental engineer. In 2012, an American drone hit the wedding of his eldest son. The attack killed his nephew Waleed,  the village policeman, and Salem, his brother-in-law, an imam who had denounced al-Qaeda in a sermon weeks before the attack.  

Faisal and I traveled 7,000 miles to Washington seeking answers. He remains the only survivor of a drone attack to meet White House officials.  After his visit the US government sent the family a ‘condolence’ payment. 

Faisal became an outspoken advocate against the secret drone wars. In addition to filing a US lawsuit, he has  spoken on the topic in Washington, New York, and Europe. 

Sami al-Saadi and family

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In March 2004, the CIA, MI6, and Libyan External Security Organization colluded on a rendition operation against Libyan dissident, Sami al-Saadi, as well as his wife and the couple’s four children. The eldest daughter was 12, the youngest child just six. Sami al-Saadi was tortured and held in Libya until 2010.

The UK government settled the family's litigation in December 2012 for £2.2 million.

Guantánamo force-feeding challenges

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Aamer v. Obama: This US habeas corpus case established the right of Guantánamo detainees to litigate conditions of confinement. Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo’s last Briton, was sent home to the UK in October 2015.

Dhiab v. Obama: This Syrian in Guantánamo went on hunger strike to protest his detention in 2013. We brought suit against the US Defense Department’s abusive force-feeding practices, and won the first disclosure of videotapes of the force-feeding footage. Dhiab was released to Uruguay in late 2014.

Other notable Guantánamo and rendition cases

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Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed was a British resident detained by the CIA in Pakistan and rendered to Morocco and Afghanistan for more than 18 months of horrific torture. The UK government were involved. As well as US habeas corpus litigation, we brought suit in the UK for evidence that would prove his torture. In 2009 Binyam Mohamed was the first prisoner released from Guantánamo by President Obama.

Sami al-Hajj

Sami al-Hajj, an al-Jazeera cameraman, was held in Guantánamo for six years. He regularly sent detailed reports of life in prison through his legal team – most of these were censored but a few made it out. After litigation and an extended campaign by Reprieve and al-Jazeera, Sami was released in 2008. He is still a journalist.

Mohammed el Gharani

Mohammed was one of Guantánamo’s youngest prisoners – he was taken to Gitmo at the age of 14. In January 2009, a US Federal judge held Mohammed was unlawfully detained and ordered his release. Mohammed has appeared in several art projects about Guantánamo.

Belhaj and al-Saadi IPT surveillance challenge

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© Defence Images (CC)

In a related case to the Libyan rendition litigation, the Belhaj and al-Saadi families sued the UK intelligence agencies for spying on their communications with us, their lawyers. The agencies were forced to concede that their policies on respect for lawyer-client privilege were unlawful.  This was the first time a individual won against the security services in the IPT. The UK Parliament later changed the law to provide better protection for legal privilege against mass surveillance.

 

Banner: Aerial view of Khashamir, Yemen. All images without caption my copyright.