A LIBYAN couple have defeated efforts to stop them taking Jack Straw and the UK Government to court over their abduction and rendition to Tripoli more than ten years ago.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar claim intelligence agency MI6 helped American agents kidnap them in Bangkok in 2004 and return them to Libya to face torture and imprisonment.
Belhaj was a well-known opponent of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and the couple were attempting to fly to London to claim asylum at the time.
They were also expecting their first child, with Boudchar five months pregnant at the time of arrest.
She was released shortly before giving birth but Belhaj spent six years in prison, during which time he says he was tortured by Libyan officials and interrogated by UK intelligence officers.
The couple, who now have five children, are not seeking large payouts and have offered to settle for a token £1 each with an apology and admission of liability for what they suffered.
Government lawyers had argued through the courts that the claims should be barred under state immunity and the foreign “act of state” doctrine, which prohibits the courts of one country sitting in judgment on the acts of the government of another one within its own territory.
The High Court agreed and ruled that the claims should be struck out. However, the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court ruling in October 2014. It said the act of state doctrine might not apply to alleged breaches of international law or human rights obligations, even in cases where the court would be required to conduct an investigation into the validity of the conduct of a foreign state.
The appeal judges said there was a “compelling public interest” in allegations of unlawful rendition and “particularly grave violations of international law and human rights” being investigated by the English courts.
Now seven Supreme Court justices have upheld that decision.
Lord Mance, announcing the Supreme Court’s findings, said that “state immunity is no bar to the claims”, and the defendants had not “on the assumed facts shown any entitlement to rely on the doctrine of foreign act of state”.
Then foreign secretary Jack Straw, Sir Mark Allen, who then headed MI6 counter-terrorism operations, the Home Office and the Foreign Office are all named in the case. All deny the claims.
Yesterday Straw said: “This judgment is about some important points of law, related to how far it is possible to bring into a court process in the UK actions of sovereign states abroad.”
He said the merits of the case have yet to be “tested before any court”, adding: “As foreign secretary I acted at all times in a manner which was fully consistent with my legal duties, and with national and international law.
“I was never in any way complicit in the unlawful rendition or detention of anyone by other states.”
The couple, backed by international human rights group Reprieve, say the abduction involved a joint MI6-CIA operation following the 2004 “deal in the desert” in which the government of Tony Blair re-opened diplomatic links with Gaddafi.
According to Reprieve, part of the deal involved the illegal kidnapping and flying of Libyan dissidents to Tripoli.
Faxes from Allen proving this are said to have been found in Libyan intelligence files to Moussa Koussa, then-head of the Libyan External Security Organisation, after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011.
UK Government lawyers had argued that the compensation claim could not be heard in a British court because it would damage relations with the US.
Sapna Malik, of law firm Leigh Day which is representing  Belhaj, said: “The Supreme Court today has delivered an emphatic judgment upholding the rule of law, particularly in the face of breaches of rights recognised as fundamental by English statute and common law, in which British defendants are alleged to have been complicit.”
Belhaj said: “I have always said I was prepared to forgive, but that first Britain needed to accept that to abduct me and my wife and send us to Gaddafi is, and always was, wrong.
“The Government refused this basic plea for justice. So I am gratified that we will have a trial.”
Boudchar said her first child Abdurahim weighed just four pounds as a result of the ordeal, adding: “I want a world where this kind of thing does not happen. 
“I will fight until I see it or until officials admit that what was done to me was wrong.”