Friday, July 01 2016

British security services complicity in Libyan rebel torture

  The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail have all reported on the claims by the leader of the Libyan rebels, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, of UK complicity in his torture by the Gaddafi regime. Belhadj claims he was placed on a CIA rendition flight to Libya in 2004 after British intelligence services provided information on his whereabouts.
According to the Telegraph, Government sources have claimed that “the involvement of MI6 in tipping off the Libyans had 'ministerial approval',” after then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw denied knowledge of the incident.
The Telegraph also reported that, “The details of MI6’s role were contained in a cache of documents found in the offices of Moussa Koussa, the former head of the foreign ministry. Mr Belhadj was on a flight bound for London from Kuala Lumpur when Libyan and US agents, acting on a tip-off from MI6, arranged for him to be put on a CIA aircraft during a scheduled stop in Bangkok.

“Nine days later, an MI6 officer called Mark, thought to be Sir Mark Allen, the former head of counter-terrorism, wrote to Mr Koussa saying: “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of [Mr Belhadj]. This was the least we could do for you.”

Documents also reveal that the rendition flight was scheduled to go via the British-owned island of Diego Garcia.

Government sources have defended the role of MI6 in the transfer of Belhadj to Libya as a subject of ‘rendition to justice’, which allows the transfer of terrorism suspects to face trial, and have also stated that they were assured that the suspects would not be mistreated. Belhadj was at the time a member of the dissident Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIGF). Documents also reveal that MI6 was also involved in the rendition of another Libyan national, Abu Munthir al-Saadi, who was also subject to torture as a leader of the LIGF.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron has responded to these new allegations of UK complicity in torture by calling on Monday for “an independent inquiry… to investigate the evidence of the complicity in the rendition”.

The Gibson Inquiry, which was set up last July to look into claims of British complicity in the mistreatment of terror suspects, after previously indicating that they were not informed of the cases, have now stated that they were aware of the cases and that they would be considered in the inquiry. Involvement of British security services in the torture of British citizens was also detailed in the 2009 Human Rights Watch report, ‘Cruel Britannia’.

The Daily Mail take on the allegations characteristically dwelt on the cost to the taxpayer of any resulting legal challenge with an article observing that “Britain could be in the unenviable position of paying a large sum to a man likely to be a key official in the new Tripoli regime”.

The DM angle is not dissimilar to the attitude of the Daily Express when reporting the release of Binyam Mohamed from Guantanamo Bay and his return to the UK.

In August, the government was forced to pay out £12 million in compensation to the former detainees of Guantanamo Bay for its role in their torture and mistreatment when detained at the prison camp.

These new revelations on alleged UK complicity in human rights abuses and secret rendition, despite loud protestations by the Government, current and former, that it does not condone the use of torture, have done irreparable damage to our reputation and moral standing.

Moreover, the revelations surrounding the renditions to Libya come just days before the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York, which sparked the initiation of the ongoing ‘war on terror’ in which Britain has played a key part. Revelations that have since come to light on the involvement of Britain and America in torture in the name of the ‘war on terror’ has tainted significantly the reputation of both countries. As the leading article in The Independent states,

“Claims about Britain's complicity with the US over rendition and torture – the knowledge of it, if not its actual use – cast a long shadow over our relations with many other, especially Muslim, countries."

Or as Dominic Lawson puts it, “the feeling that the heroism of the public response to the horror of that day [9/11] has been foully polluted by what has been done in our name to prevent a second 9/11.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 September 2011 16:02

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