Supreme Court hands down three judgments in landmark human rights cases – Serdar Mohammed, Al Waheed, Belhaj and Rahmatullah

17 Jan 2017

The Supreme Court has handed down three important judgments which are expected to have significant impact on the protection of human rights overseas.

Serdar Mohammed v Ministry of Defence & Al Waheed v Ministry of Defence [2017] UKSC 2 (available here) concerned the capture of individuals by UK forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following two hearings before a nine-member Supreme Court, the Court held by a majority of 7 to 2 that the UK had authority to detain individuals pursuant to the United Nations Security Council Resolutions authorising the use of all necessary measures if the detention was found to be required for imperative reasons of security – a matter that will be determined by the trial judge in both cases. However, the Court further held by majority of 6 to 3 that the procedural protections afforded to detainees in Afghanistan had in any event been inadequate (there were no findings regarding the procedures in Iraq before the Court).

Belhaj and another v Straw and others & Rahmatullah (No.1) v Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office [2017] UKSC 3 (available here) concerned the UK’s involvement in the capture and rendition of individuals abroad. A seven-member Supreme Court dismissed the Government’s appeal, holding that the Defendants could not rely on state immunity or foreign act of state and that the cases should proceed to trial.

Rahmatullah (No.2) v Ministry of Defence & Mohammed and others v Ministry of Defence [2017] UKSC 1 (available here) concerned tort cases brought by the Claimants under the law of Iraq and Afghanistan. A seven-member Supreme Court held that the Defendant could rely on the doctrine of Crown Act of State and that insofar as the claimants’ tort claims are based on acts of an inherently governmental nature in the conduct of foreign military operations by the Crown, the Government cannot be liable in tort.

Nikolaus Grubeck is acting for Serdar Mohammed, Al Waheed and Rahmatullah.

Julianne Kerr Morrison is acting for Serdar Mohammed.