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). The UK detained hundreds of other civilians in Iraq without charge in similar circumstances. The European Court’s official press release is attached to this email. 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 European Court decided today 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 landmark legal decision that will have huge ramifications for present and future conflicts.
Phil Shiner, who leads the team at Public Interest Lawyers has 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.”