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European Court blocks last hope for British Saudi

14 January 2014
European Court blocks last hope for British Saudi torture victims

The European Court of Human Rights ruling that three British men who say they were tortured in prison in Saudi Arabia cannot pursue a claim through the UK courts is a retrograde step which dashes any hope of justice, said Amnesty International.

The ruling blocks any opportunity for further legal action. A fourth victim died before the case was decided.

“This is a retrograde step. Unless the UK government enters into diplomatic negotiations with Saudi Arabia for compensation, this decision dashes the victims’ hopes for justice,” said Tawanda Hondora, Amnesty International’s deputy director of the Law and Policy programme.

“There was never any prospect of obtaining justice in Saudi Arabia and the only option for these men was to bring the case through the UK courts. This is a major blow for not just for these men but victims of torture globally.”

After more than 10 years of litigation, the ruling comes as a final blow to the expatriate workers who were arrested in Riyadh in 2000 and 2001. Ronald Jones, Alexander Mitchell, Leslie Walker and William Sampson were arrested in Riyadh, were accused of involvement in a bombing campaign launched by opposition groups. They were held for periods of between 67 days and more than two and a half years.

During their detention they allege they were subjected to sustained periods of torture including solitary confinement, beatings, suspension, sleep deprivation, rape and mind altering drugs.

The men took their case to the European Court of Human Rights after the House of Lords ruled that the case could not proceed on grounds that Saudi Arabia and its officials could not be sued in UK courts under the international law principle of state immunity.

“International law was never intended to provide shelter to torturers. If the UK Government is serious about leading the fight against torture it must now change the law to ensure that victims can initiate legal proceedings before UK Courts,” said Tawanda Hondora.

“All States, including the UK, must do more to stamp out the global scourge of torture. Denying justice to victims only fans the practice and gives succour to those who undertake this reprehensible practice.”

AI Index: PRE01/012/2014

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