Sunday, June 26 2016

Charles Moore replies to Peter Oborne on Belhadj rendition

Charles Moore in his column in Saturday's Daily Telegraph ponders the impending case against the British security services brought by Abdel Hakim Belhadj and argues that some secrets ought to be concealed from the rigours of justice sought by victims that put national governments in the dock of an open court.

Taking issue with the column penned by Peter Oborne earlier in the week, Moore writes:

"My colleague and friend Peter Oborne is an ornament to journalism, but when I read in his Thursday column in this space that he had “apologised on behalf of the British people”, I gasped. I had not known until then that any newspaper columnist, however distinguished, had that mandate.

"The person who received from Peter the contrition of 60 million Britons “in his vast suite of rooms at the top of Tripoli’s Radisson Hotel last week” is a Libyan revolutionary called Abdulhakim Belhadj. Mr Belhadj used to be head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, widely regarded as his country’s closest ally of al-Qaeda. Now, after the overthrow of Gaddafi, he is a politician in Libya. He is trying to sue the British government and Sir Mark Allen, a former MI6 officer, because, he says, they informed the CIA that he was in Kuala Lumpur. Thence, a CIA “rendition”, via Bangkok, spirited away Mr Belhadj to Gaddafi’s Libya, where he was imprisoned and, allegedly, tortured.

"As I say, the Belhadj case has yet to be heard, and I lack Peter’s searing moral insight, which can spot exactly who, in the opaque world of espionage and international terrorism, is a rotter. But I focus on the Great Oborne Grovel because it is only the latest example of how our public culture is forgetting a concept essential to the survival of our way of life – the concept of national security.

"For our own safety, we need to find out about nasty things that are going on in the world. Precisely because they are nasty, they are often hidden.

"If you look at the Government’s 16-page Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees, you will see clear rules against torture, and CIDT (“cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”). Rules also prescribe how to deal with officers of other states who may be using these methods, and systems of reporting to senior personnel and to ministers.

"The idea that ministers should be free to deport foreigners whom they considered dangerous would have seemed like common sense. So would the idea that secret services must keep their secrets, and so cannot be asked to give evidence in open court.

"“Human rights” have changed all that. The European Court of Human Rights, to which Britain has subjected itself, is based on universalist principles and is a supranational authority. In that environment, judges become, in effect, the paid opponents of national governments. Individual rights are seen as trumping the rights not only of states, but of everyone else.

"When our intelligence services are forced to settle in advance rather than betray their secrets to a court, they are pressing public money into some of the dirtiest hands in the world."

Moore conveniently overlooks in his argument and citing the torture guidelines issued to the UK secret services, that our secret services have not compromised their modus operandi and adopted the methods of more despicable states. Indeed, the new guidelines issues in 2010 came on the heels of the ruling by Lord Neuberger in the case of Binyam Mohamed and what came to be known of the "culture of suppression" within the secret services that allowed such an example of gross misconduct to arise.

Moore also overlooks what has come to be known of the shameless boasts of the UK security services in the abduction and rendition of Belhadj from the cache of documents found by Human Rights Watch in files belonging to Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s former Foreign Minister.

In a fax sent to Koussa by Sir Mark Allen, then head of counter-terrorism at MI6, Allen wrote to congratulate the Libyans on the "safe arrival" of the "air cargo" that was Abdel Hakim Belhaj, saying it was "the least we could do for you and for Libya". Are these the sorts of ‘secrets’ Moore believes should be shielded from legal scrutiny and an open court?

As The Times editorial argued in light of Lord Neuberger's judgment in the Mohamed case, "For his critics to charge that he is jeopardising the security of the state is brazen hypocrisy. It is not the acceptance of misdeeds that tarnishes a country’s reputation and gives succour to its enemies. It is that they happened in the first place, and the cover-up that seeks to pretend that they did not."

In apologising to Abdel Hakim Belhadj, Oborne was merely echoing the sentiments of those British citizens, who on learning more about some of the ways in which their Government has fought the "war on terror" loudly proclaim, "Not in our name".

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