Tuesday, June 28 2016

Jack Straw and MI6 accused in Libyan rendition and torture cases

The Guardian yesterday reported that the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and former head of counter-terrorism, Sir Mark Allen have been identified as key players in a court case pursued by Libyan rebel leaders against the Government. The Libyans, Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi allege British complicity in their rendition and torture.

From the Guardian:

“Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, and Sir Mark Allen, a former senior MI6 officer, have been cited as key defendants in court documents that describe in detail abuse meted out to Libyan dissidents and their families after being abducted and handed to Muammar Gaddafi's secret police with the help of British intelligence.

“The documents accuse Straw of misleading MPs about Britain's role in the rendition of two leading dissidents – Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi – and say MI6 must have known they risked being tortured. They say British intelligence officers provided Libyan interrogators with questions to ask their captives and themselves flew to Tripoli to interview the detainees in jail".

Late last year a letter from Sir Mark Allen to former Libyan intelligence chief to Gaddafi, Moussa Koussa dated March 2004 stated that "I congratulate you on the safe arrival of [Belhadj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week."

Belhadj, at the time a member of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group has alleged that he and his family were placed on a CIA rendition flight to Libya in 2004 after British security services provided information of his whereabouts. Al-Saadi similarly claims that he and his family were taken on a rendition flight from Hong Kong to Libya.

The Guardian continues that both Al-Saadi and Belhadj are suing, “Straw, Allen, MI6, MI5, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, and the attorney general, for damages for unlawful detention, conspiracy to injure, negligence, and abuse of public office.

“The court documents, served by the law firm Leigh Day and the legal charity and human rights group, Reprieve, allege:

The allegations included in the court documents include the following:

• MI6 alerted Libyan intelligence to the whereabouts of Belhaj and his family. They were held in Malaysia and Thailand and flown to Libya in a CIA plane.

• The CIA and MI6 co-operated in the rendition of Saadi and his family from Hong Kong to Libya via Thailand.

• Straw and his co-defendants knew that torture was endemic in Gaddafi's Libya.

• British intelligence officers sent detailed questions to the Libyan authorities to be used in Belhaj and Saadi's interrogations.

• Straw did not tell the truth when he told the Commons foreign affairs committee in 2005 that Britain was not involved in any rendition operations.

• Evidence by Sir John Scarlett, the head of MI6, to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) in 2006 that his agency did not assist in any rendition to countries other than the US or the detainee's country of origin was incorrect and misleading.

• Evidence by an MI5 witness to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission about the renditions was untrue and misleading.

• According to the US flight plan rendering Belhaj and his wife to Libya, the plane would refuel at the American base on the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia. If it had done so it would contradict assurances made to MPs by the former foreign secretary David Miliband.

It is now known that cases such as these are one of the motivating factors behind the government’s proposals to extend secret trials to civil courts. The legal director of Reprieve has rightly commented that if the Justice and Security Bill which includes proposals for secret trials is passed, the truth about the involvement of British Security services in these rendition cases will not be known to the wider public. Khadidja al-Saadi, the daughter of Sami an-Saadi who was twelve years old when the rendition happened has also stated that "I tried writing to Ken Clarke [former justice secretary] about my case – I told him that having a secret court judge my kidnap was the kind of thing Gaddafi would have done." That justice is done and is open is imperative not only to the Libyan families affected by the alleged renditions and torture but to British democracy more widely. This is not possible if the Government goes ahead with proposals to make the process of establishing justice closed and secretive.

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