BA passengers and crew taken hostage in Kuwait 34 years ago launch legal action

By Lisa James
02/07/2024
Home » BA passengers and crew taken hostage in Kuwait 34 years ago launch legal action

Nearly 100 British Airways passengers and crew who were taken hostage at the start of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 have launched a High Court civil action against the UK Government and the airline.

Law firm McCue Jury and Partners, which is representing 94 claimants from nine countries, says the passengers and crew were deliberately put in danger because the Government knew the invasion had taken place while the plane was in the air but nothing was done to divert it.

Lawyers also say Flight BA149 was carrying a team of UK special forces operatives for covert deployment in Kuwait, ‘which was an additional imperative for the flight to land’.

The flight, from Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur, with 367 passengers and 18 crew, had landed in Kuwait on what should have been a brief stopover. But they were taken hostage and subjected to torture, rape, starvation and mock executions while being used as human shields for up to five months.

The Government departments named in the legal action are the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Lawyers claim the flight should not have been allowed to land in Kuwait once the Iraqi invasion had begun and that damage sustained by the claimants was foreseeable.

They are seeking compensation for personal injury and consequential losses suffered by the passengers and crew of BA149 as well as BA crew members who were in Kuwait and awaiting deployment. Of the 94 claimants, 75 are British.

A spokesman for the law firm told Travel Gossip legal action has only been possible now, because new evidence came to light in 2021, when the release of documents to the National Archives showed the British ambassador in Kuwait had warned the UK Foreign Office the invasion was under way before flight BA149 landed.

The Guardian reports the then Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the warning was not passed on to BA. It adds that, in reference to allegations regarding the presence of special forces, Ms Truss said the Government ‘did not seek to exploit the flight in any way by any means whatsoever’.

Lawyers, however, say BA did know and a covert special ops team was on board. The spokesperson added McCue Jury and Partners has spent the three years since the new evidence came out building the case.

One passenger, Barry Manners, said: “We were not treated as citizens but as expendable pawns for commercial and political gain.  A victory over years of cover-up and bare-faced denial will help restore trust in our political and judicial process.”

McCue Jury and Partners Managing Partner Matthew Jury said: “The lives and safety of innocent civilians were put at risk by the British government and British Airways for the sake of an off-the-books military operation. 

“Both have, we believe, concealed and denied the truth for more than thirty years.  The victims and survivors of Flight BA149 deserve justice for being treated as disposable collateral.  HMG [His Majesty’s Government] and BA watched on as children were paraded as human shields by a ruthless dictator, yet they did and admitted nothing.  There must be closure and accountability to erase this shameful stain on the UK’s conscience.”

Travel Gossip has asked the UK Government departments and BA for comments. The Cabinet Office said it doesn’t comment on ongoing legal matters.

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