UK

British men discontinue legal action against UAE officials over torture claims

Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad had sued several Emirati officials for damages after claims they were tortured while detained in the country.

British academic Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada
British academic Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada (Daniela Tejada/PA) British academic Matthew Hedges with his wife Daniela Tejada (Daniela Tejada/PA)

Two British citizens who claimed they were tortured while falsely detained in the United Arab Emirates have discontinued their High Court legal action against officials who were allegedly involved.

Matthew Hedges and Ali Issa Ahmad both claimed they were subjected to torture while under arrest in the Gulf state in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

Mr Hedges had sued four Emirati officials, and Mr Ahmad six, for damages over their involvement.

The pair’s cases were dismissed at the Royal Courts of Justice
The pair's cases were dismissed at the Royal Courts of Justice (Nick Ansell/PA) The pair’s cases were dismissed at the Royal Courts of Justice

But at a hearing in London on Friday, Mr Justice Soole dismissed the pair’s claims.

No reason for the decision was given in court, but London law firm Kingsley Napley LLP, who represented the Emirati officials, later said that Mr Hedges and Mr Ahmad had “unilaterally proposed to discontinue their claims in advance of the hearing”.

Mr Justice Soole dismissed Mr Ahmad’s claim against one man, Major General Ahmed Al Dahri, second in command of the Abu Dhabi state security department, as he “has not been served with the claim form, particulars of claim or related documents”.

He also then dismissed Mr Hedges claim and Mr Ahmad’s case against five other individuals, including Major General Ahmed Naser Ahmed Alrais Al-Raisi, who is currently the president of the international police agency Interpol and the Inspector General of the UAE’s Ministry of the Interior.

He said: “It is further ordered by consent (that) the claims by the claimant, Matthew Hedges, are dismissed.

“The claims by the claimant, Ali Issa Ahmad, against (the five other defendants) are dismissed.”

The judge also vacated a three-day hearing that was due to take place in relation to the case on Monday, which was set to hear arguments over whether the defendants were immune from legal action taken in a UK court.

In a statement following the hearing, Carter Ruck Solicitors, who represented Mr Hedges and Mr Ahmad, said that the Emirati officials invoked “foreign official immunity” to “prevent the court considering their actions”, which led to the end of the legal action “following agreement between the parties on the basis that each party will pay their own costs”.

Mr Hedges said: “It is bitterly disappointing that, rather than confront what was done to us, the defendants asserted immunity.

“We are however encouraged that criminal proceedings relating to the torture that was inflicted upon us are ongoing and we hope that justice will finally be done.”

Kingsley Napley said: “In light of the application to their claims of the State Immunity Act 1978 and the relevant case law, the claimants unilaterally proposed to discontinue their claims in advance of the hearing.

“No settlement of the claimants’ claims has been reached between the parties.

“In particular, no payment, offer or inducement was made to the claimants in return for the dismissal of their claims.

“The parties agreed to jointly ask the court to dismiss the claimants’ claims.

“The claimants have also undertaken not to bring any new civil claims based on the facts and allegations in issue in the claims.”

Matthew Hedges, pictured with his wife Daniela Tejada, was jailed for life in the UAE on a spying charge but pardoned by president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan days later
Matthew Hedges detention Matthew Hedges, pictured with his wife Daniela Tejada, was jailed for life in the UAE on a spying charge but pardoned by president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan days later

Mr Ahmad, a dual Sudanese-British citizen, was on holiday in the UAE in January 2019 to watch the Asian Cup match between Qatar and Iraq in Abu Dhabi when he was allegedly assaulted and later imprisoned in Sharjah for wearing a Qatar football shirt.

In a statement in February 2019, the UAE Embassy in London said that Mr Ahmad was “categorically not arrested for wearing a Qatar football shirt” and was instead detained for wasting police time and making false statements after a doctor ruled his injuries were self-inflicted.

Mr Hedges was detained in Abu Dhabi between May and November 2018 after being accused of spying for the British government, something he, his family and diplomats have repeatedly denied.

The university academic, who was in the country to carry out research for his PhD, previously claimed he was questioned for up to 15 hours a day, faced sleepless nights and was fed a cocktail of drugs during his detention.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment but pardoned by the UAE’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, days later, despite the country’s officials still claiming he was a spy without offering proof.

He later received an apology and £1,500 in compensation from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

It came after an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) found that the FCDO had failed to follow its own guidance on detecting signs of potential torture and mistreatment of British nationals when they met Mr Hedges while he was detained.