It was a human cadeau which would have certainly made any medieval despot’s eyes water with delight. It was a part of notorious rendition program which is still practiced by both Britain and the US.
British lawyers for the two Libyans as well as human rights groups in the UK and the US say that the whole affair looks even more disgusting given that the British allowed the wives of the two men (one of the women was pregnant and the other never actually set foot on Libyan soil before) and four children of one of the women to be almost literary “packed up” and sent to Gaddafi’s secret police on planes.
It certainly makes one doubt again the reasoning behind NATO’s “humanitarian intervention” in Libya in 2011 and also makes the attempts to exercise a similar approach to Syria and its regime look very suspicious. If the two most active proponents of military intervention in Libya (and Syria) could put on Gaddafi’s chopping block the heads of men who were fighting the regime for years, their real purpose just cannot be the promotion of democracy and encouragement of the democratic opposition. Democracy cannot be established by feeding to dictators their own opponents – but that is exactly what the British government headed by Tony Blair have done in Libya.
British lawyers for the two prominent Libyan dissidents who were abducted in 2004 and flown to Tripoli as “a gift” to late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from Tony Blair’s government have started proceedings in the High Court in London against the British government, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw, Sir Mark Allen, the former head of counter-terrorism at MI6 (foreign intelligence), MI5 (counterintelligence), the Foreign Office, and the Home Office. Papers lodged at the High Court accuse them of being liable for these men’s and their families' false imprisonment as well as “complicity in torture and/or inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife were abducted in Bangkok by the CIA after a tip from MI6 agents, were allegedly tortured, and then flown to Libya in March 2004. It occurred two weeks before Tony Blair paid his first visit to Gaddafi and declared that they had found a common cause in the fight against terrorism.
Belhaj was made leader of the Tripoli Military Council (military commandant) after his Tripoli Brigade had helped to oust Colonel Gaddafi from the city last year. He resigned from his post in May this year to begin his campaign as the leader of the Alwattan Party for the Public National Conference elections set for July 7. The Conference will appoint a Prime Minister, Cabinet and Constituent Authority, which will draw up a new constitution.
Sami al-Saadi, his wife and four children – the youngest a girl aged six – were detained in Hong Kong before being bundled aboard an aircraft and “rendered” to Libya. Both Al-Saadi and Belhaj were members of al-Jama'a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah fi-Libya, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), an organization formed in the early 1990s and dedicated to Gaddafi's removal. Amazingly, the LIFG was not banned in the UK, and its members appeared to have found the country a convenient place to gather and raise funds. They had been doing it openly for almost ten years prior to the “rendition” of Belhaj and al-Saadi.
It is the chronology of events which is most astonishing and leaves absolutely no room for doubt and no grounds to suggest that all this was pure coincidence.
The legal proceedings now starting in London are based in part on a secret cache of Libyan intelligence documents discovered in an abandoned Tripoli office during last year's “revolution”. One of the documents is a cable from Mark Allen of MI6 to the then-head of Libyan intelligence Moussa Koussa. In a letter to Koussa, Allen wrote: “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq (a name used by Belhaj). This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years.” A few days later, Blair met Gaddafi during a highly-publicized visit.
The Libyans then announced that they had signed a £550m gas exploration deal with Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant. Three days later, Libyan intelligence agents bundled Saadi into a plane in Hong Kong with his wife, two sons, aged 12 and nine, and two daughters aged 14 and six. On arrival in Tripoli, he and his wife were handcuffed and hooded, and their legs were bound together with lengths of wire. The entire family was then thrown in jail.
Jack Straw, who was Britain’s Foreign Secretary at the time, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair, have both sought to distance themselves from the matter. In a recent BBC radio interview, Straw said that “No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence services are doing at any one time.”
This naturally did not make MI6’s people happy; no intelligence service likes to be made a scapegoat for the actions of its own government. There were reports over the weekend that MI6 confronted Straw with evidence that he was the minister who personally authorized the operation.
The case against Allen is to be followed by civil proceedings against MI6 and MI5, part of a growing number of claims against the British government and former officials alleging complicity in kidnap and murder – claims that the government wishes to see being considered in secret.
There will be a separate claim against the British Commissioner for the British Indian Ocean Territory. A plane taking Belhaj and his wife Fatima Bouchar to Libya in 2004 is understood to have landed for refueling at the US base on Diego Garcia. Though it is operated by the American military, it is still a British overseas territory.
Former Labour government ministers and MI6 are facing additional pressure over Britain's involvement in the rendition after it emerged that the government tried to “buy out” Belhaj and offered him more than £1m in compensation for being brutally treated by Muammar Gaddafi's secret police.
The government has offered the money to Abdel Hakim Belhaj in a move that would avoid MI6 appearing in open court, where it would face the prospect of explaining its role and that of government ministers.
The full scale of this involvement might never be disclosed. British officials have already said that Belhaj's civil case would be heard in a closed court. The court would hear evidence from MI6 and MI5, but only so long as the information was never disclosed.
The case will be the first significant test of a little-known piece of legislation: Section 7 of the 1994 Intelligence Services Act, which protects MI6 officers from liability for criminal acts abroad as long as their actions have been “authorized by a cabinet minister” and the authorization has been signed by a senior minister. The clause has been described by the British press as a “license to kill”.
Source: The Voice of Russia