An opponent of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime who was ‘rendered’ along with his wife and four young children to Libya by British security services in 2004 has begun legal action against the UK Government over its role in his ordeal.
Documents discovered after the overthrow of Gaddafi show that British personnel were instrumental in the detention of Sami Al Saadi in Hong Kong and his subsequent rendition to Libya in 2004, where he was subjected to years of torture. The documents also support Mr Al Saadi’s claim that UK agents interrogated him whilst he was in secret detention in Libya.
Since coming to light, Mr Al Saadi’s case has become notorious. It is one of few known examples of the rendition of an entire family, including young children, to a country where British intelligence must have known they would face torture.
It is also significant in showing UK officials not simply assisting but actively organising an illegal rendition. A March 2004 fax from the CIA to Libyan intelligence confirms that Libyans were “cooperating with the British to effect Abu Munthir’s removal to Tripoli”.
Mr Al Saadi has instructed London law firm Leigh Day & Co to bring a claim against MI5, MI6, the Attorney General, the Foreign Office and the Home Office “for their alleged complicity in his extraordinary rendition from Hong Kong to Tripoli in March 2004; [and] his subsequent unlawful detention, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults perpetrated by the Libyan authorities”.
Sami al Saadi said: "My first feeling when the door to the rendition plane opened in Hong Kong, and I saw the Libyans, was a mixture of sadness and anger. I was extremely upset to see my wife screaming while handcuffed. My daughter also lost consciousness at the time. The British had guaranteed my safety. It honestly never occurred to me that they would deliberately send anyone to Gaddafi's torture chambers. I was wrong, and my worry is that others we do not know about suffered the same fate. I want the full truth to be told in court so that we can stop this from happening again."
Richard Stein, Head of Human Rights at Leigh Day & Co said: “Mr Al Saadi’s case throws a direct spotlight onto the actions of the British who appear to have been embroiled in his rendition to Libya when it was clear that he would face almost certain torture. This legal action will ensure that the full truth behind Mr Al Saadi's experience, and that of his young family who were also rendered and imprisoned, is revealed exposing just how high up the chain of command these illegal activities were sanctioned.”
Cori Crider, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: "The rendition of an entire family, including young children, by British intelligence has to represent a new low – even by the dubious standards of the Blair era. We need to know just how far up Government knowledge of this shameful event, and any others like it, went. Did the then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw know? Was Tony Blair aware? The Metropolitan Police must now launch a full investigation, focusing on the highest levels of Government and the intelligence services."
Notes to editors
1. For more information contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve's London press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / +44 (0) 7791 755 415 or David Standard, Head of Media Relations, Leigh Day & Co, 07540 332717 firstname.lastname@example.org
2. The Guardian has reported on the documents found in Tripoli during the summer, showing the UK's role in rendering Sami Al Saadi to Gaddafi's Libya - 'Libyan papers show UK worked with Gaddafi in rendition operation', 05/09/2011
3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’