The U.K.’s electronic spying service was ordered to destroy its copies of documents illegally collected from a man who says he was tortured after being returned to Libya.
Judges at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal took the rare step of ordering the security service GCHQ to destroy confidential communications between Sami al-Saadi and his lawyer. Saadi, a critic of the Muammar Qaddafi regime, was arrested by the U.K. and sent back to Libya with his family in 2004.
Saadi and a former Libyan commander, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, sued former foreign secretary Jack Straw, the Foreign Office and the security services for their involvement in the rendition of the men and their families to Libya and their subsequent torture there.
“The tribunal, after careful consideration, is satisfied that there was no use or disclosure of the privileged information for the purpose of defending the civil claim,” Judge Michael Burton said in the ruling Wednesday.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal is a special court in London that investigates complaints about spying. The U.K. faces lawsuits from human-rights groups, Internet hosting services and two Green Party lawmakers over its part in the interception by U.S. security agencies of e-mails, communications, documents, videos and Web histories. The cases have put an unusual part of the British judiciary in the spotlight.
The three-judge panel also ordered GCHQ lawyers to deliver the documents to the court where they will be kept in a safe for five years in case there is any further legal action.