Sankoh, Re: CA 27 Sep 2000

The claimant appealed against a refusal to issue a writ oif habeas corpus on behalf of the Sierra Leonean revolutionary leader, Foday Sankoh, who had been detained in Sierra Leone while UK forces were supporting the national government there, and in circumstances where they had been involved in his transfer between detention centres. He relied on O’Brien and argued that a statement by Mr Peter Hain MP, a minister in the Foreign Office, made in response to a demand that Sankoh be released in return for certain hostages, demonstrated sufficiently arguable on-going control for the writ to run. Mr Hain had said that the UK government would not negotiate with hostage takers and that it would not trade Mr Sankoh’s freedom. On the basis of that statement, it was argued that the British government was in a position to trade Mr Sankoh for the hostages. This assertion was directly confronted by the evidence of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that Mr Sankoh was not under the custody or control of the British government and that there was no agreement between the UK and Sierra Leone under which the British government could require the release or ‘delivery up’ of Mr Sankoh.
Held: The appeal failed. The appellant had not established that the Secretary of State had control over Mr Sankoh’s detention.
Laws LJ said: ‘It seems to me, moreover, looking at the matter more broadly, that unless Mr Sankoh is actually in the custody of the United Kingdom authorities, the applicant’s case must be that the British Government should be required by this court to attempt to persuade Sierra Leone either to identify his whereabouts or to deliver him up. But that involves the proposition that the court should dictate to the executive government steps that it should take in the course of executing Government foreign policy: a hopeless proposition.’


Ward, Waller, Laws LJJ


[2000] EWCA Civ 386




England and Wales


CitedSecretary of State for Home Affairs v O’Brien HL 1923
The Crown has no right of appeal against the grant of a discharge of a prisoner on a writ of habeas corpus.
The Home Secrtary appealed against the issue of a writ of habeas corpus against him in respect of a prisoner held in Mountjoy prison in . .

Cited by:

CitedSecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs v Rahmatullah SC 31-Oct-2012
The claimant complained that the UK Armed forces had taken part in his unlawful rendition from Iraq by the US government. He had been detaiined in Iraq and transferred to US Forces. The government became aware that he was to be removed to . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Torts – Other, Litigation Practice, Constitutional

Updated: 27 June 2022; Ref: scu.218692