Jones v. UK and Mitchell and Others v. UK

Three British citizens and one British/Canadian dual national were falsely accused of involvement in a bombing campaign in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2001 and 2002, a campaign now understood to have been launched by Saudi opposition groups.

All of the victims allege that they were repeatedly tortured and all continue to endure severe psychological and physical harm as a result of their time in prison in Saudi Arabia.

Scottish tax accountant, Ron Jones, who was rushed to hospital after being injured by a bomb attack and taken away by the Saudi secret police still wearing his hospital gown, states that he was kept in solitary confinement, was shackled, repeatedly beaten on the soles of the feet and hung from a bracket. He was released 67 days later without any charge or any legitimate reason being given for his detention.

Torture and solitary confinement during more than two and a half years in prison led Alexander Mitchell, an anaesthetic technician, William Sampson, a marketing consultant, and Leslie Walker, a housing and compound manager, to make televised false confessions to the bombings. They confessed to acting as spies under orders from the British government, and were ultimately convicted in closed court without legal representation at first instance.

After a secret trial, a Saudi court sentenced Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Sampson to death by Al Haad (partial beheading and strained suspension on an X-frame) and sentenced Mr. Walker to serve 18 years in prison. Following worldwide protests and more than 900 days in captivity, they were eventually released on an order of clemency.

On return to the UK, Mr. Jones brought a civil suit for damages against the state of Saudi Arabia and Lieutenant Colonel Abdul-Aziz in the courts of England and Wales.  Mr. Jones’ case was conjoined with the cases of Dr. Mitchell, Dr. Sampson and Mr. Walker who brought a claim for damages against two policemen, the deputy governor of the prison where they were held, and the Minister of the Interior. 

All four men’s requests to serve their claims outside of the UK were rejected by the High Court on the ground that both the state and the named state officials enjoyed immunity from suit in the courts of England and Wales.  On 5 March 2004, the Court of Appeal upheld the immunity of the state but denied the immunity of the state officials.  On 3 April 2006, the House of Lords, however, upheld both the immunity of the state and the state officials.  The men have now submitted petitions to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that they have been denied their right to access to justice under Article 6 of the Convention.   

REDRESS, with a number of other organisations, intervened before the Court of Appeal, the House of Lords and the European Court of Human Rights. 

On 14 January 2014 the European Court handed down its judgment, finding (six votes to one) that the UK had not breached the applicants' right of access to a court.  The court found that although international law is in a state of flux and an exception to state immunity may be developing, the House of Lord's decision was not 'manifestly erroneous'.


For the UK proceedings click here to see the entry under 'National Jurisdictions'.

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