Dr. Abdul Haq al-Ani, British barrister– November 25, 2003 arrest

Re: Dr. Abdul Haq al-Ani, British barrister– November 25, 2003 arrest

To: The Right Honourable Lord Goldsmith

From: Gail Davidson

Date: 2003-12-03

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a committee of Canadian lawyers, campaigns internationally for the independence and security of lawyers and provides support to lawyers and other human rights advocates whose rights, safety, or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights advocacy.

LRWC is writing to express alarm and concern at the reported arrest of Dr. Abdul Haq al-Ani by Customs and Excise on Tuesday November 25, 2003 and to request additional information with respect to the arrest.

LRWC understands from recent news reports that Dr. al-Ani presented himself for questioning after learning that a warrant to search the homes of Iraqi friends had been issued, was arrested and then released on bail to appear for questioning January 23, 2004 and that no charges have been laid against him. We are aware that police claim the arrest was necessitated by an investigation of allegations that Dr. al-Ani promoted breaking sanctions against Iraq in violation of the Iraq and Kuwait (United Nations Sanctions)(Amendment) Order 1990. Dr. al-Ani’s arrest appears to have occurred shortly after he attempted, unsuccessfully, to get access to his client the former deputy prime minister of Iraq, concurrently with his applications to your office for war crimes prosecutions against Prime Minister Blair and other Ministers.

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada is concerned by the appearance that the arrest and investigation of Dr. al-Ani may be improperly motivated to restrict his professional activities as a lawyer or to curtail his legitimate advocacy on legal issues of public concern.

Factors creating an appearance of impropriety and fueling LRWC’s concern include:

  • Unpopular client– Dr. al-Ani acts for former Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, a client indubitably unpopular to the UK government.

According to our information, prior to his arrest Dr. al-Ani had been in Iraq documenting allegations of human rights violations by US and UK troops. While in Iraq, he sought and was denied permission to visit with his client Tariz Aziz. Through a habeas corpus application against coalition forces in Iraq, the Aziz family is asking that Mr. Aziz be produced before the courts and for the court to review the legality of his detention. According to a report in the Guardian November 27, 2003, “Mr. Aziz is being held by US forces with other senior regime figures at Baghdad airport. He is being investigated for alleged war crimes, but has had no access to his lawyer.”

  • Unpopular cause– Dr. al-Ani is pursuing causes unpopular to the government of the United Kingdom—opposition to the war on Iraq, opposition to the sanctions against Iraq and the prosecution of Tony Blair and others for war crimes committed during the invasion of Iraq;

Dr. al-Ani has called for prosecutions of Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 for war crimes allegedly committed in Iraq during the 2003 invasion and occupation. He has, in addition challenged your refusal to approve charges on the basis of bias. We are aware that charges under the ICC Act require the approval of yourself as the Attorney General of the United Kingdom, which has been refused, and that Dr. al-Ani has applied for judicial review of your refusal to approve charges. Based on the fact that you had advised the United Kingdom government that an invasion of Iraq would be legal, Dr. al-Ani is now requesting that your refusal to approve war crimes charges be set aside on grounds of bias. In addition, as a member of Legal Action against the War, Dr, al-Ani has campaigned against the invasion of Iraq on the basis that such action was a violation of international and national law. Earlier he opposed the sanctions against Iraq on humanitarian and legal grounds. On Friday November 21 2003 he and others petitioned Scotland Yard to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by the Prime Minister Blair and members of the cabinet. We presume that you, as the Minister who advised (wrongly) that an invasion of Iraq would be legal, were included in that call for investigation.

  • Timing

The arrest of Dr. al-Ani occurred in the midst of communications with you regarding war crimes prosecution of Prime Minister Blair and just 4 days after Dr. al-Ani and others had petitioned Scotland Yard to investigate the Prime Minister and others for war crimes.

  • Unusual allegations of wrongdoing—‘promoting breaking of sanctions against Iraq’.

Dr. al-Ani was apparently arrested under the Iraq and Kuwait (United Nations Sanctions)(Amendment) Order 1990, section 3(1)c. LRWC knows of no prosecutions under this Order and knows of no information that could reasonably sustain such charges against Dr. al-Ani. Section 3(1) c reads:

  • “3.—(1) Except under the authority of a licence granted by the Secretary of State under this Order or under the Export of Goods (Control) (Iraq and Kuwait Sanctions) Order 1990 no person shall…
  • c) do any act calculated to promote the supply or delivery of any such goods to any person in Iraq or Kuwait or to any person for the purposes of any business carried on in or operated from Iraq or Kuwait.”

Like factors are too often the hallmarks of cases in which repressive governments seek to use criminal legislation to prevent legal representation of unpopular clients or issues and to impair debate and advocacy on issues that are may expose government wrong doing. While LRWC is loath to conclude any such violations by UK authorities, the factors cited beg an explanation.

The United Kingdom is legally bound to protect the independence and security of lawyers, to ensure that lawyers and other human rights advocates are not subjected to intimidation and reprisals as a result of their advocacy and to protect the rights of citizens to engage in debate and advocacy on issues of public concern. These legal obligations arise from UK statute law, common law and from membership in the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the European Union.

International instruments that bind the United Kingdom government to implement and enforce these basic rights include: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Latimer House Guidelines for the Commonwealth and Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

If the arrest or criminal investigation of Dr. al-Ani was occasioned by his representation of Tariz Aziz or by his advocacy against the Iraq invasion or sanctions this would represent a grave violation of national and international standards. We urge you to act to ensure that the United Kingdom government complies with its duties to protect both the independence and security and the rights of citizens and human rights defenders to engage in public debate and peaceful advocacy.

LRWC asks that the government of the United Kingdom:

  • ensure Dr. al-Ani’s independence and security as a barrister, and
  • protect Dr. al-Ani’s right to engage in peaceful advocacy including his right to call for criminal investigations and prosecutions where crimes are alleged to have been committed.
  • ensure that Dr. al-Ani is protected from any rights violations by state officials.
  • provide LRWC with information that justifies the arrest of Dr. al-Ani.

We thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and look forward to receiving you reply.