UK Had Gaddafi's Opponants Sent to Libya Where They Were Tortured
A new report published by the United Kingdom-based new organization The Guardian highlights the rendition and torture of a Libyan militant, who led the fight against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and his pregnant wife. Making use of documents uncovered in Tripoli after Gaddafi was defeated by coalition and rebel forces last year, the report pays particular attention to revelations on UK involvement in an act that was previously believed to have been authorized solely by the United States. The documents fill in gaps in a story that further reveals how much of a partner the UK government has been in the US government’s “war on terrorism.” The details also make UK government plans to keep proceedings for rendition/torture victims secret even more troubling.
The following is Part 1 in a two-part story on the victims’ quest for justice and how the US is currently interfering.
As The Guardian story profoundly and disturbingly begins:
Just when Fatima Bouchar thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Americans forced her to lie on a stretcher and began wrapping tape around her feet. They moved upwards, she says, along her legs, winding the tape around and around, binding her to the stretcher. They taped her stomach, her arms and then her chest. She was bound tight, unable to move.
Bouchar says there were three Americans: two tall, thin men and an equally tall woman. Mostly they were silent. She never saw their faces: they dressed in black and always wore black balaclavas. Bouchar was terrified. They didn’t stop at her chest – she says they also wound the tape around her head, covering her eyes. Then they put a hood and earmuffs on her. She was unable to move, to hear or to see. “My left eye was closed when the tape was applied,” she says, speaking about her ordeal for the first time. “But my right eye was open, and it stayed open throughout the journey. It was agony.” The journey would last around 17 hours…
In 2004, Bouchar, who was 30-years-old at the time, was detained in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, Abdel Hakim Belhaj. They were trying to get to the UK and were stopped. Belhaj had a fake Iraqi passport. The Guardian reports an acquaintance in the UK went before a “high commission to explain the couple was trying to reach London.” They were told shortly after that they could board a British Airways flight. But, that flight did not go to the UK: it went to Bangkok, where the two were taken to a the US-run “secret” CIA prison.
In Thailand, Belhaj was “blindfolded, hooded, forced to wear ear defenders, and hung from hooks in his cell wall for what seemed to be hours.” The ear defenders were taken off for interrogations or so loud music could be blasted him. And he was “severely beaten.”
His pregnant wife was separated from Belhaj. She wasn’t sure she would see him again:
… They took me into a cell, and they chained my left wrist to the wall and both my ankles to the floor. I could sit down but I couldn’t move. There was a camera in the room, and every time I tried to move they rushed in. But there was no real communication. I wasn’t questioned.” Bouchar found it difficult to comprehend how she could be treated in this way: she was four-and-a-half months pregnant. “They knew I was pregnant,” she says. “It was obvious.” She says she was given water while chained up, but no food whatsoever. She was chained to the wall for five days. At the end of this period she was taped to the stretcher and put aboard the aircraft, unaware of where she was going or whether her husband was on board. At one point the aircraft landed, remained on the ground for a short period and then took off again. Only when it landed a second time did she hear a man grunting with pain, and realise her husband was nearby…
The aircraft eventually landed in Tripoli. During the rendition flight, Bouchar’s husband was shackled in such a way that he was unable to “sit or lie down.” He would grunt and the agents on the rendition flight would kick him. He’d sometimes get a pillow for his elbows but the pillow was always temporary. Agents would remove the pillow after a short while and he would be in pain again.
The rendition of Belhaj and Bouchar was part of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s effort to make “common cause” with Gaddafi in the “fight against al-Qaida extremism and terrorism.” While Bouchar was imprisoned in Tripoli for four months and then released just before giving birth to a son, Belhaj was held for six years. He was tortured by “Libyan captors” because UK intelligence officers wanted to know about Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) activists or members living in the UK. They wanted details on the LIFG members’ links to Al Qaeda, even though there was no such connection.
MI6, the UK-based secret intelligence service, and the CIA worked with former foreign minister to Gaddafi, Moussa Koussa. Koussa’s office, according toThe Guardian, was informed “as early as November 2003″ that Belhaj—and another dissident named Sami al Saadi, who was rendered and tortured like Belhaj—were seeking the assistance of Chinese intelligence officers in their attempt to deal with “the Islamic extremist target in China”. When MI6 learned that Belhaj was being held in Malaysia under his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq, along with his pregnant wife, they were quick to tip off Tripoli.”
A Boeing 737 aircraft “with the tail number N313P” that is known “to have been used in a great many rendition operations,” like the rendition of Binyam Mohamed. A CIA flight plan shows:
…[A]fter leaving Libya, the rendition aircraft planned to stay overnight on the Seychelles before continuing to Bangkok.It was then due to leave Bangkok on the evening of 8 March, the date that Bouchar and Belhaj were forced on board an aircraft. The CIA flight plan shows that the aircraft was then due to fly to Tripoli via Diego Garcia, where it would refuel during the early hours of 9 March…
The rendition and torture of individuals tied to LIFG is troubling on its own but equally bothersome is the UK’s abrupt decision to stop allowing the group to “settle in Britain.” They had formed in the 1990s with the sole intention to push for the removal of Gaddafi from power. The UK let the members live in the country and raise funds. It was even suspected that MI6 encouraged the LIFG to attempt to assassinate Gaddafi. But, it seems, in order to make oil and gas development deals with Libya, the UK did a complete 180 and began to go after the group.
This is, of course, how powers deftly use networks of dissidents to advance foreign policy interests. They are allies or useful pawns when they both want something, like the end of the Soviet Union. Then, when it comes time to build a country in the aftermath, the network presents a threat to the balance of power that must be preserved so the members become targets in a new war or they become pawns in the advancement or rebuilding of country-to-country relations.
Undoubtedly, the US, UK and other members of the coalition that helped to overthrow Gaddafi had contact with LIFG members. They were what fueled allegations that an “Islamic emirate” had been setup in Libya during the uprising. They were a key player in the battle to topple the strongman.Yet, the LIFG remains on the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) announced last December that the allegations raised in the case of the two Libyan were “so serious” that it was in the “public interest for them to be investigated.” But, the UK government is simultaneously recommending that “closed material procedures” be employed in cases like these so that “sensitive security information is not disclosed.”
This, as The Guardian describes, would mean “claimants would not be able to see evidence used against them and may never even be given the court’s final judgment.” The change is a “response to cases where former detainees have sued the security services for their treatment in Guantánamo Bay and other holding prisons, alleging they have been subjected to torture or abuse.”
Lawyers for Belhaj’s wife, Fatima Bouchar, see this as a mechanism that could be used to ensure cases are litigated in secret to protect British intelligence agents.
Last week, Clarke, the UK justice secretary, renewed controversy surrounding plans to have secret court proceedings when he said that “US security services had become ‘extremely cautious’ when dealing with Britain on the basis that shared national secrets risked being made public in open hearings.”
The justice secretary then backpedaled almost immediately and denied the plans to let “spies” give evidence in secret were not a result of “immense American pressure.” But, he admitted that what had happened in the case of Binyam Mohamed had gotten in “the way of cooperation.” He added, “If they fear our courts, they won’t give us the material.”
In 2008, Mohamed sued the UK government to force the release of documents on his detention in Guantanamo Bay prison from 2004 to 2009. This is what the US government fears most: transparency.
The full implications of US pressure should be noted. Mohamed was brutally tortured. He experienced beatings while in the prison that, according to The Observer, led to “bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which [was] exacerbated by the refusal of Guantánamo’s guards to give him counseling.”
His US military lawyer, Lt. Col Yvonne Bradley, says he was “severely beaten,” something Bradley doesn’t like to think about because “my country is behind all this.” It is also likely that he was beaten after President Barack Obama announced the “closure” of Guantanamo in January 2009.
Mohamed was rendered by US officials to Morocco. For 18 months, he was interrogated and tortured. A razor blade was used to cut his genitals. A hot stinging liquid was at one point poured on the cuts. He was forced to listen to loud music, placed in a room with sewage, drugged numerous times and threatened with rape, electrocution and death.
He was rendered to Afghanistan next. US officials took him to a prison known as the “Dark Prison,” where “captors” hit his head against the wall until it bled. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s profile then indicates he was “thrown into a tiny cell measuring barely more than two meters in either direction and chained to the floor. Despite the extreme cold, he was given only shorts and a thin shirt to wear and a single blanket as thin as a sheet.” Horrifying treatment continued until he was taken to Bagram and shortly after was flown to Guantanamo.
If this push is successful, US operations would not just be protected but, as already briefly suggested, British intelligence agents would likely be protected as well. The nature of the secret proceedings would make it possible to get away with limiting the discovery or presentation of certain evidence. Belhaj and Saadi would be less likely to get a fair trial. The court proceedings would probably be a whitewash and make it possible to move forward without litigating any other cases.
Finally, the UK is not only moving to make aspects of civil court proceedings function like American military tribunals. The country is also planning on doing away with a mechanism that made it possible for Mohamed to force the disclosure of information on his rendition and torture. So, again, the US pressure is aimed at making it impossible for victims to bring attention to crimes or wrongdoing committed by the US in the “war on terror.”
The documents on victims rendered to Libya and the plans to make court proceedings secret make clear the fact that the UK is an accomplice in the continued commitment of brutal human rights violations that the US government has decided must be protected from prosecution. The UK is an accomplice to a government that believes violations should be kept secret so they can remain a “viable tool” in the “war on terrorism.”
Torture and rendition are not crimes the US government prosecutes fully because there may be circumstances where the US would like to barbarically wield these weapons to continue the fight against a “far-reaching network of individuals” that the government believes wishes to strike America any chance it gets. So, when members of the UK justice system move to grant victims due process or, for that matter, when officials from any allied country attempts to hold those involved in this barbarism accountable, they are coerced into submission. They are told they can give victims their day in open court, but if they do, they may not get information the US has on the next possible terror attack planned against the UK.
This is so public, I can see a head rolling over it but, in my opinion, something like this could never happen without the PM signing it off.
I wonder if that will ever come out.
it wont be his head that rolls tho
Originally Posted by fred
Shows how the British government is not trustworthy at all. Giving people who were opponents of Gaddafi shelter then when Bliar decided Gaddafi is our friend so that he can make dosh out of the relationship then they serve Gaddafi's opponents to him on a plate for torture and imprisonment. Belhaj only proceeded with the case because the government here turn down the chance to apologise to him, so he went ahead with the charges. Jack Straw has a lot of very very nasty stuff to answer for , one day Inshallah.