British Gov’t Attempts To Silence ‘Rendition and Torture’ Case
Libyan dissident Abdelhakim Belhaj brought the case, where enlightening details from documents were presented at the High Court. Belhaj, along with his then-pregnant wife, Fatima Boudchar, were kidnapped by British authorities and delivered directly to Libya’s torture chambers in a process known as ‘rendition’.
British MI6 agents gave files to Libyan spies indicating that Belhaj’s was once part of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).
Belhaj is suing for a symbolic sum of £1 and an unconditional apology for how he and his family were treated after their kidnap in Malaysia in 2004, where he claims that he and another Libyan man caught up at the same time were frequently tortured.
The Guardian reported last May that evidence of MI6 involvement in their ordeal emerged in correspondence with Sir Mark Allen, a senior MI6 officer, which was found inside the abandoned office of Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s foreign minister and former intelligence chief, after the regime fell in 2011.
Scotland Yard conducted a four investigation into the case that gathered 28,000 pages of evidence. The Crown Prosecution Service announced some nonths ago that it did not believe there were sufficient grounds for charging Allen, who, at the time had been head of counter-terrorism at MI6.
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In the meantime, lawyers for the government are determined to have this case heard behind closed doors, saying parts of the evidence are of national security interest.
Belhaj’s lawyers argue that, given the nature of details in the files, the government simply cannot continue to insist that a case involving very senior government officials must be heard in secret.
The accusation is that not only were political figureheads such as Sir Mark Allen at fault, but by implication so was Tony Blair and former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who he served under.
The lawyers for Belhaj are now alleging as a result of bring the case, that the government is threatening to prosecute the two men if they testify in an open court hearing.
Britain’s current foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, made a statement which was read out in court: “I have concluded… that it would not be possible to have a fair trial of these claims on the basis of the open material alone.
“Serious allegations have been made against [both Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen], which they and the government firmly contest. They both wish to have a real opportunity to defend themselves but they know that as a matter of law and fact they cannot do so unless there is a [secret hearing].”
The evidence for the case came about when key information which were retrieved from Libyan archives after the UK-backed assault on the Gaddafi regime in 2011, were viewed by Belhaj’s representatives from law firm Leigh Day during a field trip to Libya.
The use of torture in Britain has been contrary to common law for several centuries. Although the common law prohibited torture, the Privy Council continued to issue torture warrants until 1628 and it was not until the Long Parliament in 1640 that the practice was formally abolished.
Torture, a serious violation of human rights, is declared to be unacceptable, (but strangely not illegal) by Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Signatories of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and 1977 officially agree not to torture captured persons in armed conflicts, whether international or internal. Torture is also prohibited for the signatories of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which has been ratified by 158 countries, of which Britain was one of the first to sign.