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25 May 2022

Nnamdi Kanu’s family begin a legal challenge to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s ‘abdication of its responsibility’ to acknowledge and respond to his extraordinary rendition

4 mins

Bindmans LLP has sent a pre-action letter on behalf of the Kanu family, to the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, challenging her failures to acknowledge that Nnamdi Kanu, a British citizen, has been subjected to extraordinary rendition and to lawfully determine what further steps the UK government should be taking to assist him given this violation of his human rights. 

The case raises important points of principle, not only in relation to extraordinary rendition, but on the legal duties the UK has when its citizens’ human rights are abused abroad.

Mr Kanu was forcibly taken from Kenya to Nigeria in June 2021 and has been held in solitary confinement ever since, in a Nigerian security services detention facility. The Nigerian government has described this as an ‘interception’ and has not provided any evidence of formal extradition proceedings. British High Commission Officials have been permitted to visit Mr Kanu on just two occasions.

Bindmans contend there is compelling evidence that Mr Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was subject to extraordinary rendition from Kenya to Nigeria in June 2021 and, to date, neither country has put forward any credible evidence to suggest otherwise. The right to liberty and security of the person, and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention have been described by the United Nations as ‘deeply entrenched human rights norms’. Extraordinary rendition is a fundamental contravention of these principles and a serious breach of international law.

The English courts have considered the question of the UK’s obligations to British citizens who have been extraordinarily rendered in the case of Abbasi v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2002] EWCA Civ 1598. There, the Court of Appeal stressed that in order to properly consider whether to make diplomatic representations or take more serious action to protect a British citizen’s interests, the Foreign Secretary must start by reaching a clear view on whether its citizen has suffered a ‘denial of justice’ as a result of a violation of their rights and freedoms as guaranteed by international law.

In Mr Kanu’s case, the Foreign Secretary has been unwilling to reach a view on whether he has been subject to extraordinary rendition, in spite of evidence submitted to her officials over the ten months that have passed since he was taken to Nigeria. Her refusal to form a view on Mr Kanu’s rendition means she cannot have taken into account all relevant factors, nor have lawfully exercised her discretion in considering what further steps to take in respect of Mr Kanu’s rendition.

Shirin Marker, solicitor at Bindmans LLP who is representing Mr Kanu’s family said:

It has now been nearly a year since Mr Kanu was subject to extraordinary rendition. Since then, he has been detained in solitary confinement in a cell six by six feet for nearly 24 hours a day. To date, the UK’s diplomatic efforts have had very little effect. UK officials have only been able to visit Mr Kanu twice whilst in detention, his conditions of detention have not changed since that visit and no other progress has been made in assisting him.

Most remarkably, the Foreign Secretary has been unable or unwilling to reach a conclusion on whether Mr Kanu has been subject to extraordinary rendition or not, despite all the evidence showing he was. That matters because she cannot make a proper decision on how to respond to what has happened without deciding precisely what she is responding to. Mr Kanu’s family, who bring this challenge, urge to her take a decisive stance on his extraordinary rendition so that she can properly consider what further steps should be taken to assist him in light of this egregious breach of international law.

Kingsley Kanu, Mr Kanu’s brother, said:

With every day that passes, I am increasingly concerned for my brother’s welfare in detention and increasingly frustrated by the UK Government’s ineffectiveness in assisting him. I hope the Court will rule the Foreign Secretary must recognise the seriousness of my brother’s situation and properly consider what other steps she can take to assist him in light of his extraordinary rendition.

Kingsley Kanu is represented by John Halford and Shirin Marker of Bindmans LLP, and counsel Charlotte Kilroy QC of Blackstone Chambers and Tatyana Eatwell of Doughty Street Chambers.

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