Palestinian held in Guantanamo Bay can sue UK for waterboarding by CIA

Abu Zubaydah alleges UK spies had questions put to him by the Americans knowing he would be tortured

Abu Zubaydah has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2006. Getty Images
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A Guantanamo Bay detainee, believed to be one of the first people waterboarded by the CIA, can go ahead with a lawsuit against the UK government, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, a Palestinian man widely known as Abu Zubaydah, is bringing a claim against the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Home Office and the Attorney General over alleged complicity in his torture.

Mr Zubaydah has been detained by the US authorities since his capture in Pakistan in 2002 and in 2006 was sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he has been held since.

Former US president George W Bush in 2002 described Abu Zubaydah as "Al Qaeda's chief of operations”.

But it has been reported that officials later concluded he was a Pakistan-based fixer for Islamist ideologues and was never a formal member of Al Qaeda.

The High Court previously heard Mr Zubaydah's claims that he was "arbitrarily detained" at CIA-run "black site" prisons in Thailand, Poland, Morocco, Lithuania and Afghanistan where he was "subjected to extreme mistreatment and torture".

Mr Zubaydah has not suggested that UK forces were involved in his capture, rendition to the facilities or were present during his mistreatment and torture.

He claims that security services MI5 and MI6 sent numerous questions to the agency to be used in interrogations despite being aware that he was being subjected to extreme mistreatment and torture at the hands of the CIA from at least May 2002.

Now, four justices at the UK's highest court found there are "substantial factors" connecting the allegations with the UK.

Giving the majority ruling, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lord Stephens said: "In our view, the claimant has established a compelling case in favour of the displacement of the general rule in the unusual circumstances of this case."

In dissenting judgment, Lord Sales said it was "highly significant that the claimant sustained his personal injuries and was imprisoned in the six countries".

The government departments have neither admitted nor denied that they knew where Mr Zubaydah was being held from time to time, or that they knew how he was being treated, arguing that they cannot do so for reasons of national security.

Updated: December 20, 2023, 2:18 PM