Rahmatullah and Ali v MOD and FCO. The High Court on the law applicable in (allegedly) irregular rendition cases.

In [2019] EWHC 3172 (QB) Rahmatullah and Ali v Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office claimants argue on the basis of the torts of negligence and misfeasance in public office. They are Pakistani nationals both of whom allege that they were captured by British forces in Iraq in February 2004. They contend that they were subsequently handed over to United States’ control and, thereafter, taken to Afghanistan where they were subjected to prolonged detention, torture and mistreatment.

At issue in this civil case is whether the English PIL rule of locus damni (for personal injury cases) needs to be displaced in favour of English law, by virtue of the exceptions to this rule including, all else failing, ordre public. (For the relevant text, see the judgment).

Rome I does not apply given the case clearly is one of acta iure imperii. Note that this does not, in England and Wales, displace the residual rules of the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995.

Turner J keeps the discussion very to the point, holding that there is no reason to displace the general rule: the law of Iraq applies to the claims prior to the claimants’ rendition from Iraq to Afghanistan and that of Afghanistan thereafter. His clear application of the precedents is much enjoyable.

One particularly interesting point is raised at 34:

The claimants make the further point that transferring a detainee from one country to another in breach of Article 49 [of the Fourth Geneva Convention, GAVC] would legitimise forum shopping by illegal rendition. The defendants accepted during the course of oral submissions that circumstances could arise in which this was a legitimate concern where, for example, a detainee had been relocated in a rogue state selected for its lack of adequate legal protection for those within its geographical and jurisdictional boundaries. However, in this case there is no evidence to suggest that any consideration of the putative advantages of the application of Afghan jurisprudence lay behind the rendition decision or indeed to the effect that Afghan law would provide, as a matter of fact, a particularly suitable environment within which to achieve any such darker purpose.

Of note is also, at 29, claimants’

‘point that those in senior positions who are to be held accountable for the alleged failures under the return claim were based in England and were acting (or failing to act) in the exercise of state authority.’

An argument which, Turner J finds, has been found to be relevant in the authorities, however not striking with sufficient force in casu to meet the very high burden of proof for displacing the standard rule.

Geert.

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