Two Libyan dissidents are taking a former senior MI6 officer to court to challenge a little-known law which protects members of the security service from criminal liability for acts carried out abroad, providing that they are sanctioned by a cabinet minister.
The law is contained in section seven of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 which states that British security and intelligence officers are not liable under the criminal or civil law of any part of the United Kingdom for acts authorised by a senior minister. The clause has been dubbed Britain's 'licence to kill' law.
Abdul Hakin Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi have launched the legal challenge after claiming that they were tortured by Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi's secret police. They accuse Mr Allen, who was the most senior officer in MI6 responsible for counter-terrorism at that time, alleging that he was complicit in their torture.