MI5, MI6 and the whole British Government’s on trial for kidnap and torture. Abdel-Hakim Belhaj was delivered to Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi as a favour by the Blair administration. Now, Whitehall wants the trial to happen in a secret court in London, behind closed doors.
Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary (2001-06): “Justice is the starting point of everything we stand for.”
Kidnap, torture and dirty deals with a dictator.
The British Government’s in the dock for extraordinary rendition.
Hi, I’m Leon Hawthorne. We all know about America’s water boarding and prisoner abuse in the War on Terror, but does Britain also have blood on its hands?
Abdel-Hakim Belhaj is a rebel Libyan politician, who in 2004 was kidnapped in Bangkok by the CIA and MI6 and delivered, gift-wrapped to Colonel Gaddafi. At the time, Gaddafi was the West’s new best friend, after he had got rid of his weapons of mass destruction.
Mr Belhaj’s pregnant wife, Fatima Boudchar was also abducted. Both were imprisoned and repeatedly tortured.
Evidence of British involvement came to light when Gaddafi was toppled in 2011. Incriminating documents were found in the ruins of the office of Libyan Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa.
The British Foreign Secretary was Labour’s Jack Straw. The Head of MI6 was Sir Mark Allen. Both men personally as well as MI6, MI5, the Home Office, Foreign Office and the Attorney General are now being sued in London by Mr Belhaj.
Despite his terrible abuse, he’s not asking for money. He has offered to settle the case for £3 and a public apology.
But the British Government has closed ranks, using the full weight of the state to try to crush the court action. So far, spending an estimated half a million pounds in legal fees.
The Government doesn’t appear to challenge the basic facts. It seems to be saying: yes, we kidnapped him and sat in the back of the room when he was being tortured, but none of that is illegal. We have sovereign immunity from prosecution and all this should be heard in secret.
Separate to the civil law suit, the Metropolitan Police conducted an investigation
into whether anybody broke UK criminal law.
Alison Saunders, the beleaguered Director of Public Prosecution decided not to bring charges. Mr Belhaj has challenged her decision, asking for a judicial review. The Government wants any review to be held in secret, without Mr Belhaj’s lawyers having access to crucial evidence… on the basis this could damage national security.
There’s a famous saying that justice must be done and be seen to be done. How can we have justice when the Government insists on secret courts? And does this secrecy really protect national security or merely avoid political embarrassment?
In any case, the Government could use a Public Interest Immunity certificate, an alternative method to stop national secrets getting into the public domain. But that means it couldn’t use the evidence as part of its defence.
What’s clear is: the Blair Government undoubtedly participated in extraordinary rendition and lied about this to parliament and the people.
They might argue: kidnap and torture are a price worth paying to cosy up to a dictator who’s on “our side”. Well, let them stand up in open court, or in parliament and make that case instead of wasting taxpayers’ money trying to frustrate natural justice.
I’m Leon Hawthorne. Thanks for watching.