British Airways passengers and crew members taken hostage in Kuwait in 1990 are preparing to take legal action against the UK Government and the airline, according to a law firm.
McCue Jury and Partners said it is representing victims who want to ensure “the truth is fully disclosed” and “due compensation is paid” for allowing the flight to land.
British Airways Flight 149 touched down at Kuwait International Airport in the early hours of August 2 1990 as Iraqi armed forces were invading.
More than 300 people onboard were detained by Iraqi troops, marking the start of an ordeal lasting almost five months as they were used by Saddam Hussein as “human shields” against western attacks.
The UK Government insisted the “responsibility” for what happened “lies entirely” with the Iraqi authorities at the time, while BA said it was “not warned about the invasion”.
Documents released in November 2021 showed the Foreign Office was warned by the British ambassador in Kuwait that Iraqi forces had crossed the border an hour before the flight landed.
The information was never passed to BA, which was unable to take action to divert the flight, according to the Foreign Office files released to the National Archives.
There have been claims that a group of around 10 men who were the first to disembark when the plane landed were special forces troops, but this has always been denied by the UK Government.
But McCue Jury and Partners said “evidence exists” that the Government and BA “knew the invasion had already begun” when they allowed the plane to land because it was being used to insert a team into Kuwait “for a special military operation”.
The firm is appealing for more passengers and crew members of the flight to join the claim, which it intends to bring in the High Court in London in the coming months.
It said each of the hostages “may claim an estimated average of £170,000 each in damages”.
Matthew Jury, managing partner of McCue Jury and Partners, said: “The lives and safety of innocent civilians were sacrificed by the British Government and British Airways for the sake of an off-the-books military operation.
“Both have concealed and denied the truth for more than 30 years.
“The victims and survivors of Flight BA149 deserve justice for being treated as disposable collateral.”
Some of the hostages suffered post-traumatic stress after being subjected to abuse and witnessing atrocities.
One of the passengers taking part in the claim is Barry Manners, who was a 24-year-old businessman at the time of the flight.
He 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.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Government has always condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the suffering that followed and the mistreatment of those aboard BA149.
“The responsibility for these events and the mistreatment of those passengers and crew lies entirely with the government of Iraq at the time.”
A BA spokesman said: “Our hearts go out to all those caught up in this shocking act of war just over 30 years ago, and who had to endure a truly horrendous experience.
“UK Government records released in 2021 confirmed British Airways was not warned about the invasion.”