The House of Lords today delivered judgment in R(Al-Skeini) v Secretary of State for Defence  UKHL 26. Upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal, the Law Lords ruled by a 4-1 majority that the Human Rights Act 1998 applied to acts of UK public authorities abroad which were within the “jurisdiction” of the UK for the purposes of Article 1 ECHR. The Government’s submission that only acts within the UK were covered was rejected.
Accordingly, their Lordships held that the relatives of Baha Mousa, who died whilst in British army custody in Basra in 2003, were entitled to bring proceedings in the English courts under the Human Rights Act 1998 seeking a public inquiry into his death. The question of whether Article 2 ECHR conferred the right to a public inquiry in the circumstances of Mr Mousa’s case was remitted to the Divisional Court.
The Law Lords dismissed the appeals of the families of five other civilians who were allegedly killed by British forces in Basra, on the basis that these deaths did not occur within the custody of British forces and therefore, applying the European Court’s decision in Bankovic v Belgium (2001) 11 BHRC 435, were outside the UK’s “jurisdiction” for the purposes of Article 1 ECHR.
Charles Banner appeared for a coalition of NGOs who submitted written and oral interventions, led by Keir Starmer QC and Richard Hermer.