The Court of Appeal has today granted permission for a judicial review brought by a Kenyan man who accuses MI5 and the FBI of complicity in his rendition and torture following the 2010 Kampala bombings. The Court ordered that Omar Awadh Omar be allowed to bring his application which seeks disclosure from the UK about its knowledge of his alleged rendition from Kenya to Uganda, where he currently faces capital murder charges.
Since September 2010, Omar, a prominent Nairobi-based Muslim human rights activist, has been held at Luzira high security prison in Kampala. He is accused of involvement in the twin bomb attacks which killed 74 people in Kampala as they watched the 2010 World Cup Final. If found guilty, Omar faces death by hanging. No concrete evidence against Omar has been brought by Ugandan prosecution lawyers.
Omar alleges that he was abducted by the Kenyan Anti-Terror Police Unit, bundled into a car and driven to the border crossing at Malaba, where he was handed over, hooded and shackled, to Ugandan police. They took him to the notorious “Rapid Response Unit” at Kireka, which human rights groups have described as a “torture chamber”. Whilst at Kireka, he was repeatedly interrogated over the course of 21 days by two FBI agents and one MI5 agent. Omar alleges that he was verbally abused, threatened with transfer to Guantanamo Bay, repeatedly pushed, slapped, kicked, prevented from eating or praying, punched so hard he suffered kidney damage and threatened with serious sexual assault. Whilst the majority of these assaults were carried out by the FBI agents, they were witnessed and encouraged by the MI5 agent. Throughout his interrogations, Omar was held incommunicado without any access to his family or lawyers in an overcrowded cell infested with lice and mosquitoes.
Omar was not questioned about the Kampala bombings, which the agents made clear they did not suspect him of involvement in. Instead, they offered him a role as an informant. He alleges that his refusal to cooperate has resulted in his continued detention in solitary confinement on capital charges.
The Court of Appeal
The hearing followed the decision of the British Government to “neither confirm nor deny” involvement in the ill-treatment or rendition of Omar. The Court of Appeal was composed of three judges - Lord Justice Maurice Kay, Lord Justice Sullivan, and Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls and the second highest-ranking judge in England and Wales. The Court held that it was at least arguably necessary to Omar’s criminal defence and/or challenge in the Constitutional Court of Uganda for the UK to disclose to him any information it holds in relation to his alleged rendition, which the Kenyan and Ugandan authorities flatly deny. If rendition can be proved, this could result in the collapse of the charges against Omar.
Omar also alleged that through its involvement in his coercive interrogation in Kampala, the UK had breached its 2010 Guidance to Intelligence Officers. The Court, however, held that judicial review should not be used to challenge that alleged breach, which ought instead to be the subject instead of a complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.
Tessa Gregory, solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, said today:
“This case involves extremely serious allegations of UK complicity in the unlawful rendition, treatment and prosecution of our client, Omar Awadh Omar. In light of the Court’s decision today, the Government can no longer sensibly maintain its policy of neither confirming nor denying its involvement in Omar’s case.”
The full judicial review hearing will take place in the New Year.