United Kingdom (Reprieve) – Reports in today’s Guardian state that the then-head of MI5 wrote to Prime Minister Tony Blair to protest MI6 involvement in CIA renditions during the ‘war on terror.’ According to the paper, Eliza Manningham-Buller’s letter warned that MI6’s actions – which included organizing the kidnap and rendition of two Libyan families, including a pregnant woman and four young children – threatened UK intelligence gathering and the safety of MI5 officers and informants.
Senior figures in MI6 and the Government of the day are now awaiting an announcement from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on whether to bring charges over UK involvement in the 2004 Libyan renditions, which saw the Belhadjand al Saadi families kidnapped and forcibly transferred to Libyan prisons. Mr Belhadj and Mr al Saadi – who were both prominent opponents of Colonel Gaddafi – suffered years of torture in the dictator’s prisons as a result of the MI6-orchestrated operation.
However, according to the Guardian, “investigators have been frustrated by the way potentially key witnesses have said they were unable to recall who had authorized British involvement in the rendition program, who else knew about it, and who knew the precise details of the Belhaj abduction.”
While security sources have reportedly claimed that Mr Blair and then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw were briefed on UK involvement in rendition, both have claimed that they had no knowledge of it at the time.
Commenting, Cori Crider, a lawyer at international human rights organization Reprieve, which is representing the Libyan families in their attempts to secure accountability said:
“You know MI6 under Blair’s government were running amok when their role in CIA kidnap operations turned even the stomachs of MI5. Yet now, according to this report, officials are exercising mass tactical amnesia over who signed off the most appalling abuses in the ‘war on terror.’ The notion that ‘the CPS cannot bring a charge against a government policy’ of torture is obviously wrong.
“Lady Manningham-Buller was right to be disgusted. The rendition of the Belhaj and al-Saadi families to Libya wasn’t just illegal. It broke every value Britons hold dear. It’s a damning assessment when even the hard-nosed head of MI5 could see that delivering a pregnant woman and four children to Gaddafi’s dungeons was wrong, pointless, and made Britain less safe. There clearly is a case to answer here, and Reprieve aren’t the only ones who think so. We eagerly anticipate the long-delayed decision of the CPS.”
This report was prepared by Reprieve.