The UK’s universal jurisdiction is to be tested after a complaint was lodged with the Metropolitan Police concerning the arrests, illegal detention and torture of three Qatari men in the United Arab Emirates.

Under the complaint police will be asked to investigate up to 10 senior figures in the UAE government should they travel to the UK.

Universal jurisdiction enables certain serious crimes – crucially including torture and crimes against humanity – to be tried in UK domestic courts even if the alleged crime was committed abroad and against non-UK nationals.

Rodney Dixon, QC at Temple Garden Chambers, and who is leading the case said Scotland Yard was assessing the referral. He told the Gazette that London was chosen as it is a city that, while upholding the rule of law, was also somewhere the defendants, who have not been named, may be likely to travel.

The men, a doctor, a security service worker and an adviser to the Qatari ministry, told the Gazette they had been detained without charge for several months and subjected to regular torture and beatings.

They are; Dr Mahmoud Abdul Rahman Al Jaidah, director of medical services at Qatar Petroleum, Hamad Ali Muhammad Ali Al Hammadi, personal assistant to the head of Qatar’s security service and Yousef Abdul Samad Al Mullah, who worked for the ministry of the interior in the general directorate of passports.

Al Mullah said he was held for nine months and later released without charge. He told the Gazette he was kept in solitary confinement and suffered from sleep deprivation and believes his ordeal later led to him being separated from his wife.

Al Jaidah and Al Hammadi said they spent 27 and 11 months receptively under arrest. They were allegedly forced to record ‘confessions’ to false charges of sedition and defamation against the UAE on the understanding that they would be released.

On their release they were compensated by the Qatari government, which agreed to end the matter amicably to avoid confrontation with the UAE. However, earlier this year, after the breakdown in relations between Qatar and neighbouring Gulf states the confessions were publicly broadcast.

Al Jaidah alleges he was regularly beaten. He said he was strapped to a chair in which he was turned upside down, punched, kicked and given electric shocks. He claims to also have been threatened with sexual abuse.

‘My family and friends saw this video where I was made to things that were completely untrue. We hope that an independent and impartial investigation will not only expose the truth about what happened to us, but also act as a deterrent to those governments that so flagrantly disregard international law and basic human rights.’

He added that London was well known for its legal expertise and upholding of the rule of law.

Dixon added: ‘This referral is a test of the British system’s duty, willingness and ability to uphold international law and human rights, no matter how challenging that may be. The UK legal system has shown time and time again that it will stand by these principles and values. My clients are hoping that this time will be no different.’

The UAE embassy has been contacted for comment.