Immunity Anxiety

The repulsive double standards of the British Government's stance on torture took an even more bizzare twist today. The Saudi Government, with the full support of our Labour Government won their appeal against a 2004 ruling that would have allowed 4 men tortured in Saudi Arabia to sue for compensation.
[full ruling]

Four men who were arrested and subjected to "severe torture" in Saudi Arabia today lost their bid to sue those responsible for their treatment.

Five law lords unanimously overturned a court of appeal ruling from October 2004 that cleared the way for Sandy Mitchell, Les Walker, Bill Sampson and Ron Jones to claim damages from the Saudi government and its officials.

The Saudi government, supported by the British government, argued its agents were protected by the State Immunity Act 1978 from proceedings in Britain.

The Law Lords almost sounded like they were apologising for delivering a ruling based on the strict interpretation of the law. But no such reticence from our estemed leader, gushing today in PMQ:

Q7. [77010] Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): Now that Ron Jones and others have lost the right to sue Saudi officials for torture, what meaningful legal redress is there for any Briton tortured abroad in the light of the Law Lords' ruling?

The Prime Minister: May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that we intervened in this case in order to ensure that the rules of international law and state immunity are fully and accurately presented and upheld? That is important for us as a country and for others. But our strong position against torture remains unchanged: we utterly condemn it in every set of circumstances.


The obvious hypocrisy of Blair's position on torture, when it is being performed by one of our allies is well documented, not least by the indomitable Justin over at Chicken Yoghurt.

…you can sleep soundly again knowing that this slight bump in the road to harmonious trade with the Saudi government has been smoothed and the prestige that comes from selling massive amounts of military equipment to one of the world's most brutal regimes is untarnished.

A cynic might ask whether the Government would have weighed in on the side of "rules of international law and state immunity" against four men seeking redress for what was done to them (one of the men has medical evidence proving he was tortured) had the torturers in question been the goons of pre-war Iraq or Iran, Burma, Zimbabwe or any other abattoir state with which we don't have a multi-billion pound arms contract.

If you are going to get yourself picked up and tortured while on holiday, try and check the Foreign Office's Strategic Export Controls reports before you leave. If we sell your idyllic destination lots of armoured vehicles and electric stun batons, you're better off being on your best behaviour.

But it is not just the fact that the wealth of the House of Saud buys a lot of favours with the House of Blair, or indeed the house of Bush when it comes to torture, or terrorism...
Could there be a personal aspect to Blair's enthusiasm for the principles of State Immunity...?

According to an Al Jazeera

According to an Al Jazeera article:
A lawyer representing Walker, Sampson and Mitchell said they would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Hopefully Blair's influence doesn't stretch as far as that court.

Good luck to them .

Good luck to them . Shouldn't Saddam Hussein be covered by State Immunity too ?

No, because he's ostensibly

No, because he's ostensibly being tried under Iraqi law. The point about sovereign immunity is that you can't sue another government unless it was acting in a commercial transaction

How does this fit in with

How does this fit in with the UK Government's commitment to put African dictators in prison? The only consistent principle I can discern behind their apparently random statements is that "if you are (a lot) weaker than us we will beat you up mercilessly; but if you are able to defend yourself (or likely to put a lot of money our way) we will tolerate no interference with your affairs".