Saturday, 18 August, 2018

May sorry for helping send Abdul Hakim Belhaj to Gaddafi's torture chamber

UK govt apologises, awards compensation to Libya's Belhaj Theresa May makes unprecedented apology to Libyan dissident and his wife to settle rendition and torture case
Johnnie Parks | 11 May, 2018, 13:52

In her letter, Mrs May said that the UK Government believes their account of the events and told them: "Neither of you should have been treated in this way".

Belhaj echoed his wife's sentiments in a statement.

The practice of "extraordinary rendition" became widespread in the years following the 9/11 attacks and drew condemnation from around the world, with opponents claiming the United States and UK were seeking to circumvent worldwide human rights laws and engage in torture. "They hit me in the abdomen just where the baby was", she wrote. We are profoundly sorry for the ordeal that you both suffered and our role in it.

"Later, during your detention in Libya, we sought information about and from you". We wrongly missed opportunities to alleviate your plight: this should not have happened.

But the British government apology should not mask the failure of accountability in other areas.

Wright also revealed that the United Kingdom government had paid out £500,000 ($676,000) to Boudchar - but Belhaj did not seek compensation and has received no bursary from the United Kingdom government as a result.

"I can announce that following mediation the United Kingdom government has reached a full and final settlement" with the pair.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright read out a letter to the couple from the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, where Mrs Boudchar and the son she was carrying 14 year ago were watching from the public gallery. Boudchar and her son Abderrahim will be present. "It was done in Thailand at the hands of the CIA".

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Mr Belhaj, 52, whose torture included brutal beatings and being hung from walls, had repeatedly said throughout proceedings that he would settle his case for £3 - a pound for each victim - and an apology from the British government. The rendition operation took place shortly before then prime minister Tony Blair's "Deal in the Desert" with the eccentric dictator to bring in Libya from the cold and co-operate in areas including the so-called War on Terror.

Mr Allen's role in the affair was investigated by the Metropolitan Police, but prosecutors decided not to press charges in June 2016.

Mr Belhaj was a leading opponent of Colonel Gaddafi and says he was abducted in 2004 in Bangkok along with his pregnant wife while attempting to fly to London to claim asylum in the UK.

Reacting to the apology, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj said: "I welcome and accept the Prime Minister's apology, and I extend to her and the Attorney General my thanks and goodwill".

Mr Belhaj returned to public consciousness in 2011 as the Libyan revolution unfolded, leading the brigade responsible for the capture of Bab Al Azizia, despot Muammer Al Qadaffi's main military base during the battle for the capital - Tripoli, and later as head of the National Military Council.

Wright told lawmakers that in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Britain and its worldwide partners "were suddenly adapting to a completely new type and scale of threat".

It was during the Libyan revolution that allegations against the United Kingdom government's involvement emerged. The letter, dated 2004, read "I congratulate you on the safe arrival of [Mr Belhaj]".

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