Matrix Chambers’ Conflict of Interest with their clients: Libya and Abdulla Senussi


Matrix Chambers’ members represent BOTH sides of the same issue facing Libya at the ICC.  Simultaneously, Matrix Chambers’ Philippe Sands and Michelle Butler represent Libya while Matrix Chambers’ Ben Emmerson represents Abdulla Senussi.  As a result, Matrix lawyers have filed briefs before the ICC to both retain Abdulla Senussi on Libyan soil and to move him to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands.    See our PDF: Matrix Chambers Members

Libya’s ICC Team:

Matrix Chambers' Philippe Sands, represents the Libyan Government at International Criminal Court

Matrix Chambers’ Philippe Sands, represents the Libyan Government at International Criminal Court  here

Matrix Chambers' Michelle Butler represents the Libya Government at the International Criminal Court.

Matrix Chambers’ Michelle Butler represents the Libya Government at the International Criminal Court.  here


Matrix’s Ben Emmerson has worked to initiate international sanctions against Libya. 

As of January 15th 2013, Matrix founding partner Benedict Emmerson has represented Abdulla Senussi before the International Criminal Court.   Since assuming his legal role, Emmerson’s threatening rhetoric paralleled his actions to instigate UN sanctions against the Libyan government.  Ben Emmerson made this comment soon after representing Abdulla Senussi:

“It is proof positive of the urgent and imperative need for the (U.N.) Security Council to impose sanctions on Libya for its flagrant, deliberate and grave violations of Security Council resolution 1970.”

Abdulla Senussi’s ICC Lawyer:

Ben Emmerson represents Abdulla Senussi at the the International Criminal Court.

Ben Emmerson represents Abdulla Senussi at the International Criminal Court.  here

According to IBA Global Insight, Emmerson wrote this in his submission to the ICC:

 ‘It is clear that intervention by the Security Council is now the only means of securing compliance by Libya with its international obligations.’  He went on to say, ‘The Security Council now needs to take action. If Libya fails to comply, sanctions should be imposed.’

According to The Guardian, Emmerson wrote simultaneously to the President of the UN Security Council “and British Foreign Secretary William Hague to ask them to use their influence to put pressure on the Libyans.”    In this letter to the foreign office,

“Emmerson alleges Senussi was subject to ‘unlawful rendition’ and handed over to the new Libyan government for 250m dinars (£125m).”

By accepting Abdulla Senussi as his client, within international and Libyan standards, Ben Emmerson has created a conflict of interest with members Phillippe Sands and Michelle Butler as they defend the Government of Libya.  The direct result of this conflict of interest is that Matrix lawyers have filed briefs before the ICC to BOTH retain Abdulla Senussi on Libyan soil and to move him to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands.


Another Matrix Chambers’ member Lord Ken Mcdonald.

In line with fellow Matrix Chambers’ members,  Lord Ken Macdonald, as chair of NGO Reprieve, championed the rights of Sami al-Saadi, a victim of the Gaddafi regime.   The plea’s letterhead with Lord Macdonald’s name implicated Musa Koussa, a Gaddafi crony, in al-Saadi’s torture and subsequent unlawful rendition.  PDF: REPRIEVE-Sami al-Saadi

Matrix Chambers' Lord Ken Mcdonald has provided support to BOTH Sami al-Saadi and Abdulla Senussi.

Matrix Chambers’ Lord Ken Mcdonald has provided support to BOTH Sami al-Saadi and Abdulla Senussi.  here

However, it seems Lord Macdonald has switch sides on the victim/torturer issue coinciding with fellow Matrix member Ben Emmerson’s rhetoric.   Lord Macdonald has ‘raised questions’ about Abdulla Senussi in the House of Lords by asking for information about payments and whether

“any [government] servants or agents has taken part in the questioning of Abdullah al-Senussi during the period of his detention in Mauritania [from 17 March to 5 September 2012) or in [Libya since then]”.


Matrix Chambers’s members involved in the al-Saadi/Belhadj case.

Leigh Day are the solicitors who have been managing the al-Saadi/Belhadj case.  However, Leigh Day then “instructed“ lawyers from Matrix Chambers to advise them. These are Alex Bailin QCMark Summers and Alison Macdonald.  From the Matrix site:

Leigh Day & Co represent Mr Al Saadi and Mr Belhadj and their respective families, both of whom were opponents of the Gaddafi regime.
Alex Bailin QCMark Summers and  Alison Macdonald are instructed by Richard Stein and Rosa Curling of Leigh Day to advise.

Therefore, to the members of Matrix Chambers, we offer this Tripoli TV video made on the 25th of January 2009, which shows Matrix Client Abdulla Senussi intimidating and berating Matrix Client Sami al-Saadi and Matrix Client Abdel Hakim Belhadj by threatening ‘to have their throats slit’.     Encapsulated in this visual is the fact that Matrix Chambers is representing both the Libyan torture victims and their Libyan torturer.  Abdullah Senussi’s actions in this video are a violation of European Convention of Human Rights and the UK Human Rights Act of 1998 which Matrix Chambers, a human rights law firm, knows.   Here, Here and Here.  It is a violation of the essential rights protected by the Human Rights Act in Article 3:  The Right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman treatment or degrading treatment or punishment. 

 To the Libyan People: these are some of members of the law firm where YOUR money is paid so that they may represent YOU.  As members in this Chambers which is a private limited with share capital company, all partners receives a percentage of all money paid for work in the office which is a sliding scale based on their number of shares.  

Conflict of Interest. The ethical freedom permitted to UK barristers isn’t ethical, legal or acceptable in much of the world, and most notably, it isn’t acceptable in Libya.   Considering the management committee’s choice to represent ALL these Libyan clients, one could argue, the pursuit of money and politics, not human rights was Matrix’s motivation.   It seems that Matrix Chambers have blurred the lines of a conflict of interest in order to accept ALL their Libyan clients.


The French Twist 

Matrix Chambers has focused other efforts in France.  According to an article published in Le Figaro the 11th of February 2013,  human rights lawyers Rachel Lindon,  Amal Alamuddin and Ben Emmerson, have formally requested French intervention on behalf of their client, Abdulla Senussi.  In a letter addressed to the French Defense minister, Laurent Fabius, the lawyers request that France acts “urgently” on his behalf so his case could be transferred to the International Criminal Court and “to ensure that Libya respects its obligations” both under resolution 1970 of the Security Council and the orders of the ICC.

In support of their claim, Abdulla Senussi’s lawyers argue that their client was subject to an interrogation by French officials while in custody in Mauritania from March until September 2012.  This would be in violation the 1970 UN resolution.   Another claim by the lawyers is that France should reveal any information withheld about alleged financial transactions between Libya and Mauritania for the transfer of Senussi.

The Paradox

Highlighted by the reporter,  the irony is that as Senussi’s lawyers plea to France for intervention; a French arrest warrant has ALREADY been issued since 1999 for Abdulla Senussi.  He has been condemned to life in prison for ordering the bombing of the French UTA airlines in September 1989.



Parts of this op/ed article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

Interested in Libya’s ICC legal issues?   Please consult our other articles; the lawyers and law firms that represent them:

John Jones, Amal Alamuddin & Libya: A Financial Cache of Libya’s ICC Case.

George Clooney’s Friends-Amal Alamuddin, Samantha Power and R2P: Implications for Libya

Doughty Streets’ Amal Alamuddin, John Jones, and Wayne Jordash and ALL Their Libyan Clients

The ICC, Abdulla Senussi and the Elusive Truth

Amal Alamuddin: Dismissing Libya’s Legitimate Legal Right Since 2012.

 Matrix Chambers’ Conflict of Interest with Their Clients: Libya & Abdulla Senussi

An Open Letter to Abdel Hakim Belhadj and the Libyan People


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