Court of Appeal allows appeal in claim by Guantanamo Bay detainee against UK Government


The Court of Appeal has today allowed an appeal brought by Abu Zubaydah, a detainee at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a claim for complicity in torture against the UK Government. The claimant alleges that from 2002-2006 he was arbitrarily detained at secret US “black site” prisons located in six different countries (“the Six Countries”), where he was subjected to extreme mistreatment and torture by the CIA. He contends that from at 2002 the UK security and intelligence services were aware that he was being arbitrarily detained, mistreated, and tortured, in CIA “black sites” but nonetheless sent questions to the US intelligence agencies to be used in their interrogations of him for the purpose of attempting to elicit information of interest to the UK intelligence services. The claimant claims that by acting in this way, the UK security and intelligence services committed the torts of misfeasance in public office, conspiracy to injure, trespass to the person, false imprisonment and negligence.

In February 2021 the High Court ruled that the applicable law for these claims against the UK Government was the laws of the Six Countries, meaning that the question of whether the UK Government was liable to the claimant would be determined by reference to the laws of Thailand, Lithuania, Poland, the United States (or possibly Cuba), Afghanistan and Morocco. In a judgment handed down today, the Court of Appeal overturned that conclusion, finding that the High Court had made a number of “important errors of law” and ruling that the claimant’s claims are governed exclusively by English law.

Richard Hermer QC and Edward Craven (together with Ben Jaffey QC at Blackstone Chambers) represented the claimant, instructed by Bhatt Murphy.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal is available here.