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30 September 2022

High Court to rule on whether Liz Truss’ indecisiveness as Foreign Secretary was a lawful response to the extraordinary rendition of Nnamdi Kanu

4 mins

The Court has granted permission in a judicial review claim challenging the former Foreign Secretary Liz Truss’ failure to reach a decisive view on whether Mr Kanu is a victim of extraordinary rendition by the Nigerian authorities.

Mr Kanu is the British national leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a group that calls for self-determination for Biafra Land.

On 19 June 2021, he was abducted from the airport in Nairobi, Kenya and detained and tortured for around ten days in Kenya. In documents filed in Nigerian court proceedings, the Nigerian government has admitted its agents ‘intercepted’ and detained Mr Kanu. He was then flown by private plane from Kenya to Nigeria on around 27 June 2021.

Since then, Mr Kanu has been detained in solitary confinement at the headquarters of the Department of State Services, the Nigerian intelligence agency, in Abuja, Nigeria. He has been denied access to medical assistance and to his legal team. Mr Kanu has requested consular assistance from the British government. In the past year, British High Commission officials in Abuja have been permitted to visit him on only two occasions.

Mr Kanu’s family have requested the British Government take steps to secure his release. In order to lawfully determine what steps, if any, should be taken to assist Mr Kanu, the Foreign Secretary must first reach a concluded view on whether he has suffered a ‘denial of justice’ as a result of a violation of his rights and freedoms guaranteed by international law. Thus far, the Foreign Secretary has been unwilling to reach a concluded view as to whether Mr Kanu has been subject to extraordinary rendition, despite the mounting evidence and admissions by the government of Nigeria itself, which have been brought to her attention.

Meanwhile, on 20 July 2022, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published an opinion, finding that Mr Kanu was subject to extraordinary rendition and is subject to continuing arbitrary detention. The Working Group has called for his immediate and unconditional release and has referred his case to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.  

In a claim for judicial review, Mr Kanu’s family are requesting a declaration that the Foreign Secretary has acted unlawfully by refusing to reach a firm view on whether Mr Kanu has been the victim of extraordinary rendition.

The High Court has held that the Claimants’ case is arguable on all grounds. The case will now proceed to a one-day judicial review hearing, on a date to be decided by the Court.

Kingsley Kanu, Mr Kanu’s brother, said:

The British government is well known for its stance on human rights. I believe it must be decisive when it comes to its decision-making about very serious violations of the human rights of British citizens abroad, especially when the facts are clear, as they are in my brother’s case.

Shirin Marker, one of the solicitors at Bindmans LLP acting for Mr Kanu’s family, said:

It is important for the Foreign Secretary to reach a firm conclusion on whether Mr Kanu has been the victim of extraordinary rendition in order to decide what steps the British government can take to assist him. Although it is for the Foreign Secretary to decide what steps to take, what the law demands is engagement with the evidence, reaching a rational, firm conclusion on what has occurred, and then a decision on what Britain should do about it.

All the evidence available to date establishes Mr Kanu has been subject to extraordinary rendition and torture or inhumane treatment. The UN Working Group had no hesitation in concluding this was so, which begs the question of why Ms Truss and now Mr Cleverly have found the same decision impossible to take.

Mr Kanu’s family is represented by John Halford and Shirin Marker of Bindmans LLP, together with Charlotte Kilroy KC of Blackstone Chambers and Tatyana Eatwell of Doughty Street Chambers.

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