Court ruling on Britain’s shady acts abroad could finally see powerful figures in the dock

Jack Straw
Tom Coburg

For some years, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has withheld hundreds of sensitive intelligence documents. These relate to allegations that the British establishment instigated the extraordinary rendition (illegal abduction and transfer) of three Libyans. Two of these suffered torture. Now, in a landmark ruling, the High Court has ordered that lawyers acting on behalf of the plaintiffs can demand that the CPS produce those documents.

The documents in question include letters sent by Sir Mark Allen, former head of MI6, to his Libyan counterpart Moussa Koussa. And the latest ruling follows on from a ruling in January 2017 by the Supreme Court that cleared the way for litigation to proceed against Allen, as well as then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the Foreign Office, the Home Office, and MI6.

The rendition allegations

Human rights group Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day allege that Abdul Hakim Belhaj (a leading Libyan rebel opposed to the Gaddafi regime), his wife Fatima Bouchar, and Libyan dissident Sami al-Saadi, faced extraordinary rendition to Libya with the knowledge of British authorities.

Specifically, that the US made arrangements for the three to be flown to Libya via Diego Garcia (a British Overseas Territory).

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Moreover, according to Human Rights Watch, the prison in Libya where Belhaj and his family were held routinely practised torture.

Torture allegations

Belhaj alleges:

the UK security and intelligence services sought and obtained access to them and interrogated them, in circumstances where it was obvious that they were being held incommunicado, without any judicial supervision, and were subject to mistreatment and torture.

In 2016, in response to a question about the case, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said:

The Metropolitan police submitted a comprehensive file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service seeking to demonstrate that the conduct of a British official amounted to misconduct in public office.

But the CPS decided against prosecution.

Letters from Allen to the Libyan spy chief

A number of documents [pdf p90/91] found in Tripoli by Human Rights Watch confirm how the British government helped the Gaddafi regime take custody of Belhaj (also known as Abdullah al-Sadiq).

In particular, Allen (known as ‘M’) wrote to Libya’s Koussa as follows [pdf]:

Most importantly, I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu’ Abd Allah Sadiq [Belhaj]… Amusingly, we got a request from the Americans to channel requests for information from Abu ‘Abd Allah through the Americans. I have no intention of doing any such thing. The intelligence on Abu ‘Abd Allah was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful to you for the help you are giving us.

And other documents [pdf] found in Tripoli relate to the specific rendition arrangements of Belhaj and his wife.

MI6 rendition letter
MI6 rendition letter

Also, MI6 asked the Libyan interrogators to put the following questions to Belhaj:

MI6 intel doc

Seeing justice done

But Jack Straw has denied all knowledge of what happened to Belhaj and his wife, saying:

I was never in any way complicit in the unlawful rendition or detention of anyone by other states.

More documents will be revealed in court. And they could prove once and for all if Britain had a role in extraordinary rendition. For Belhaj, litigation is not about compensation, but simply about seeing justice done.

Get Involved!

– See more Canary Global articles on Libya.

– Support Reprieve, an international human rights organisation.

– Read more on the ‘War on Terror‘.

Featured image via Flickr Creative Commons

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