Kuwaiti government denied immunity

Roger Pearson reports on a Court of Appeal ruling regarding sovereign immunity to UK legal proceedings

The procedural way has been paved for a major international piece of litigation against the government of Kuwait involving allegations of torture.

Papers in the case, in which a former Kuwaiti airforce officer claims he was tortured by members of Kuwait's ruling family and state agents, have already been served on two members of the ruling family.

Now the Court of Appeal has ruled that the claims by British-born Sulaiman Al-Adsani make a good arguable case for saying the Kuwaiti government was not entitled to sovereign immunity from English legal proceedings and is entitled to serve his High Court writ on them out of the jurisdiction.

The Appeal Court was told that 33-year-old Al-Adsani claims he was hunted down after being wrongly suspected of leaking a video tape alleged to show a Kuwaiti sheikh in a sexual encounter.

Because the allegations involve alleged breaches of international human rights, the court decided that the Kuwaiti government is not entitled to claim sovereign immunity. It also held that there was evidence suggesting that the government had authorised, or connived in threats made to Al-Adsani's life after he turned to the UK.

Al-Adsani will claim that he was beaten up by Sheikh Jabber, another member of the family and a third man. He also claims he was burned when Jabber set alight petrol-soaked mattresses and that the Sheikh also threatened to shoot him.

On his return to the UK Al-Adsdani claims he was threatened and that the Kuwaiti ambassador in London criticised him for giving a TV interview and threatened to take away his family's passports. He says he also received an anonymous call saying: "Another interview and you die."

In giving leave for the Kuwaiti government to be served in the proceedings Lord Justice Evans said that the court had only heard one side of the story but there was clear evidence of torture and threats to Al-Adsani's life by members of the Al-Sabah family.

While the family should not be confused with the government itself, there was evidence of at least government compliance in what happened.