United Kingdom (Reprieve) – A family who were rendered to Gaddafi’s Libya in a joint MI6-CIA operation have spoken of their disappointment at a decision by British prosecutors, announced yesterday, not to bring charges against UK officials implicated in their kidnapping.
Abdul-Hakim Belhaj, a prominent Gaddafi opponent, and his then-pregnant wife, Fatima Boudchar, were kidnapped in March 2004, forced onto planes, and taken to Libya in a joint MI6-CIA operation. Another dissident, Sami al-Saadi, and his four children were abducted shortly afterward. Speaking to the Daily Mail in an interview published today, Mr Belhaj described the torture he went on to suffer in Gaddafi’s prisons.
In a statement yesterday, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that a senior British intelligence official was involved in the operation and had – to a limited extent – sought “political authority for some of his actions.” However, the CPS went on to claim there is “insufficient evidence” to bring charges.
The CPS decision – which marks the first official acknowledgement that UK officials were involved in the CIA’s rendition programme – follows a four-year Scotland Yard investigation into the abductions. The Metropolitan Police Service issued a separate statement yesterday, citing “a thorough and penetrating investigation that has been conducted without fear or favour by a small, specialist team of detectives from New Scotland Yard.” The MPS also revealed that “a comprehensive file of evidence in excess of 28,000 pages” had been passed to the CPS in June 2014, nearly two years before yesterday’s decision not to charge.
Evidence of the UK’s role emerged after the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, when documents discovered by Human Rights Watch in the office of his spy chief, Moussa Koussa, were found to include correspondence from MI6. In a fax to Mr Koussa, senior MI6 officer Sir Mark Allen took credit for the intelligence behind the operation, writing “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of…the air cargo [Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar].”
Speaking about the decision, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj said:
“I am very disappointed in the decision. The evidence of the British role in my family’s ordeal is overwhelming. I saw many of the pages with my own eyes. For many years I have waited and put my faith in British justice, but so far I have seen from the government nothing but secrecy and cover-ups. They say the rule of law in Britain reaches everyone, even the most powerful. Today I wonder whether that idea was a myth.”
Mr Belhadj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, said:
“I can’t believe it. I was heavily pregnant when Britain helped kidnap and deliver me to Gaddafi. My baby weighed four pounds when he was born. I wonder how a British mother would have felt in my situation, if, while she was still carrying her baby, a gang of kidnappers seized her, took her to a secret cell, tortured her, taped her to a stretcher, and delivered her and her baby to a horrendous dictator. I hoped for better from British justice than today’s result, and will keep fighting until my husband, my family, and my son receive it.”
Cori Crider, the couple’s lawyer and a director at international human rights organization Reprieve, said:
“These abductions were a moral failure on an epic scale. But somehow a 28,000 page file from the police, including a now-famous fax from Sir Mark to Moussa Koussa taking credit for the whole ordeal, was not in the CPS’ view enough to charge anyone – and it took nearly two years to reach this conclusion. The CPS announcement raises major questions – what, exactly, was Jack Straw told? Was this an a failure of oversight and a rogue agent, were ministers wilfully blind to rendition, or at some level did they know all along? This isn’t over for the families, not by a long shot. They are determined to fight the decision.”
This report prepared by Reprieve.