Guantanamo Bay prisoner who was ‘among the first people water-boarded by the CIA’ sues British government claiming MI6 was ‘complicit in his torture’
- Abu Zubaydah has been detained without trial since being captured in 2002
- He was ‘subjected to extreme mistreatment and torture’, his lawyers said today
- George W Bush once described Mr Zubaydah as ‘al-Qaida’s chief of operations’
- He is now bringing claim against Foreign and Home Office and Attorney General
A Guantanamo Bay prisoner believed to be one of the first people waterboarded by the CIA is suing the British Government, claiming MI6 was ‘complicit’ in his torture.
Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, a Saudi-born Palestinian who is widely known as Abu Zubaydah, has been detained without trial by the US authorities since his capture in Pakistan in 2002.
He was ‘arbitrarily detained’ at CIA-run ‘black site’ prisons in Thailand, Poland, the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Morocco, Lithuania and Afghanistan where he was ‘subjected to extreme mistreatment and torture’, his lawyers told the High Court today.
Mr Zubaydah, now 49, was then sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2006 ‘where he has been held without trial ever since’, the court heard.
Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, a Saudi-born Palestinian who is widely known as Abu Zubaydah, has been detained without trial by the US authorities since his capture in Pakistan in 2002
Shortly after his capture, US president George W Bush described Mr Zubaydah as ‘al-Qaida’s chief of operations’, while White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said he was ‘member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle’.
But a report by the US Senate Committee on Intelligence, which was published in 2014, said: ‘The CIA later concluded that Abu Zubaydah was not a member of al-Qaida.’
Mr Zubaydah’s lawyers told the High Court that he was subjected to ‘waterboarding on more than 80 occasions, extreme sleep deprivation, confinement inside tiny boxes, beatings, death threats, denial of food and denial of medical care’ while held in the ‘black sites’ between 2002 and 2006.
He is bringing a High Court claim for damages against the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, the Home Office and the Attorney General for their ‘complicity in, and their facilitation and encouragement of, the extreme mistreatment and torture’ he suffered during detention.
His barrister Richard Hermer QC told the court that a parliamentary committee had previously found MI6 had ‘direct awareness’ of Mr Zubaydah’s ‘extreme mistreatment and probable torture’ as early as 2002.
Despite that, UK intelligence agencies ‘continued to send the CIA questions to be used’ in his interrogation until ‘at least 2006’, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee found in 2018.
Mr Hermer added that MI6 ‘had been informed by the US that the torture was so severe that ‘98% of US special forces would have broken if subject to the same conditions’ as the claimant’.
At a preliminary hearing today, Mr Justice Lane was asked to decide whether English law applies to Mr Zubaydah’s claim – as his lawyers argue – or whether it should be the law of the six countries in which he was detained.
Mr Hermer said that English law should apply to the claim as any ‘acts of conspiring, facilitating and encouraging mistreatment and/or torture’ would likely have taken place in England.
He said UK intelligence ‘took advantage’ of his client’s detention, ‘sending questions to be asked in the torture chamber’.
He was ‘arbitrarily detained’ at CIA-run ‘black site’ prisons, including the US base at Guantanamo Bay, where he was ‘subjected to extreme mistreatment and torture’, his lawyers told the High Court today
He also pointed out that ‘communications about the claimant’s torture by the US were sent to ‘SIS Head Office’, MI6’s headquarters in London, and that Mr Zubaydah has ‘no meaningful connection with any of the six countries’ to which he was rendered.
Mr Hermer said in written submissions: ‘Indeed, his only connection with those countries arises from the fact that he was forcibly transported to those countries against his will, and outside of any legal process, by agents of the United States.
‘Because of the manner in which he was unlawfully transferred and detained, the claimant was not even aware of the countries where his detention and torture occurred until many years later.’
Jonathan Glasson QC, for the defendants, said the ‘consequences’ of Mr Zubaydah’s mistreatment were ‘sustained in the six countries’ and therefore their laws should be applied to the claim.
Mr Justice Lane said he would give his judgment at a later date.
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