Parliament to debate no-charge decision over UK role in CIA renditions

June 28, 2016

MPs will tomorrow (Wednesday 29 June) debate the UK’s role in the CIA’s rendition and torture programme, for the first time since British prosecutors announced that no charges would be brought over the kidnap and forcible transfer of two families to Gaddafi’s Libya in 2004.

Earlier this month, the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) produced the first-ever official confirmation that British officials had participated in the rendition programme, and ‘political authorisation’ had been sought – suggesting that Government ministers may have known more at the time than they admitted publicly.

However, despite the existence in the public domain of evidence showing MI6’s role in organising the renditions of the al Saadi and Belhaj families to Libya, and the submission by London’s Metropolitan Police of a 28,000 page file to prosecutors, the CPS claimed that there was “insufficient evidence” to bring charges.

Tomorrow evening, the House of Commons will hold an Adjournment Debate on the issue, which will see a Government minister forced to respond substantively for the first time since the CPS announcement.  So far, the Government has made no public statement on the CPS announcement, despite requests in the House of Commons for them to do so.

The al Saadi and Belhaj families were kidnapped, forced onto planes and flown to Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya in a joint MI6-CIA operation in March 2004.  Sami al Saadi and Abdul-Hakim Belhaj were both prominent Gaddafi opponents who had been living with their families in exile, and suffered years of torture after their forcible return.

Mr Belhaj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, has told how, despite being pregnant at the time of the rendition, she was chained to a wall in a secret CIA prison – or ‘black site’ – in Bangok, before being bodily taped to a stretcher for the entire 17-hour flight to Libya. One of Mr al Saadi’s children, Khadija, who was 12 years old at the time, has described how she was so terrified during the kidnap that she passed out.

Evidence of the UK’s central role in the operation emerged after the fall of Col. 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 which senior officer Sir Mark Allen took credit for the intelligence behind the operation. In a fax to Mr Koussa, Sir Mark wrote “I congratulate you on the safe arrival of…the air cargo [Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar].”

Commenting, Cori Crider, a director at human rights organization Reprieve and lawyer for the Libyan families said: “The Government has serious questions to answer over who signed off on the kidnap and mistreatment of a pregnant woman and four young children.  Did a senior MI6 officer go rogue, or were ministers consulted?  Twelve years after this shameful operation, we still don’t have any answers – Parliament must tear down this wall of silence tomorrow.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org