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London court rules that Qatari billionaire can’t be sued over torture claim

17th Feb 2016

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani, the former prime minister of Qatar, cannot be sued in London over claims that agents acting on his behalf falsely imprisoned and tortured a British citizen as he is protected by diplomatic immunity, the high court has ruled.  Hamad bin Jassim claimed that because he had diplomatic and state immunity, the UK did not have jurisdiction to hear a case brought by Fawaz al-Attiya, a British citizen and former official spokesman for the emirate.

Attiya alleged that Hamad bin Jassim had ordered his detention for 15 months, the majority of which he spent in solitary confinement and where he was also “subject to threats and psychological abuse”. He also claimed that Thani, also known as Hamad bin Jassim, arranged for his property to be confiscated.

The claims were rejected by Hamad bin Jassim, whose lawyers say the “extremely serious allegations are, without exception, a combination of distortion, exaggeration and wholesale fabrication”.

Attiya, 47, had been seeking damages of hundreds of millions of pounds for the loss of ancestral land when the case was rejected. Attiya said he would lodge an appeal.

Justice Blake ruled the court had no jurisdiction to hear the claim on two grounds, explaining that there was “no judicial authority on how a former prime minister of a sovereign state could be sued in a private capacity for inducing breaches of duty by other public officials”.

Hamad bin Jassim was added to the Foreign Office diplomatic list in December 2013, eventually given the rank of “minister-counsellor”. The listing as a diplomat means that he and his two wives and 15 children enjoy legal immunity in Britain under the Vienna convention of 1961.

The Foreign Office said it was “ultimately for the court to decide whether a foreign diplomat enjoys immunity”.