The UK government is refusing to guarantee that it will not misuse the intercepted lawyer-client communications of two rendition victims in their legal cases again the British government.
Yunus Rahmatullah and Amanatullah Ali, from Pakistan, are bringing legal action against the Britishgovernment for its complicity in their torture and rendition. The men were captured in Iraq in 2004 by British forces, before being rendered by the US to Bagram prison, Afghanistan. They endured a decade of secret US detention and torture in Bagram before their release last May without charge or trial.
The UK Government is refusing to agree to a request by the men to take “reasonable” steps not to “read, listen to or otherwise use” their communications with their lawyers. Those communications are confidential, and enjoy protected status under the longstanding principle of legal professional privilege (LPP).
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The men’s request is the latest in a series of recent developments on the issue of government interception in legal cases. In recent weeks the UK has signed a undertaking not to read or listen to any legally-privileged material relating to another rendition victim, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj from Libya. That agreement, nearly identical to the one submitted by Mr. Ali and Mr. Rahmatullah, came after the government admitted in the course of Mr. Belhaj’s case that UK intelligence agencies’ policies regarding the monitoring of lawyer-client conversations were unlawful.
The Ministry of Defence is claiming that a similar undertaking is not necessary in Mr. Rahmatullah and Mr. Ali’s case, saying that safeguards already exist. It has declined to say why its view differed in Mr. Belhaj’s case, where the same policies that were conceded to be unlawful apply.
Kat Craig, Mr. Rahmatullah’s lawyer and Legal Director at human rights organization Reprieve, said: “Not content with complicity in the torture, rendition and decade-long secret detention of Mr. Rahmatullah and Mr. Ali, the UK is now trying to prevent them from achieving justice. Why would anygovernment otherwise refuse to implement safeguards, and which only serve to achieve a fair balance – and protect an age-old principle of our justice system? By preventing our clients from communicating privately with their legal team, and fairly and robustly seeking the justice they so sorely deserve, the UK government is holding itself above the law.”
Background on the case of Mr. Rahmatullah and Mr. Ali can be found at the Reprieve website, here.