Pressure mounts on UK govt as victim reveals: Gaddafi spy chief told me Diego Garcia was a stop on my torture tour

April 14, 2014

Image of Barbed wire

Pressure is mounting on the government to clarify whether a UK territory was used in the CIA’s torture programme, after a victim revealed he was told by Gaddafi’s spy chief that the plane rendering him to Libya had stopped at Diego Garcia.

Abdulhakim Belhadj, a Gaddafi opponent who – along with his pregnant wife – was rendered back to Libya in a joint CIA-MI6 operation in March 2004, told his lawyers at Reprieve:

“The first time I heard that I had gone through a place called Diego Garcia was when I was told by the head of the Libyan intelligence, Moussa Kousa, during my first interrogation session in a prison outside Tripoli. He was running the interrogation, and was angry that it had taken a long time for me to arrive in Libya. I told him that the plane had stopped somewhere on the way from Bangkok. He told me that he knew, and that the plane had landed on an island in the Indian Ocean called Diego Garcia.”

A CIA flight plan – found and widely circulated in 2011 in the offices of Gaddafi’s spy chief – showed that the intelligence agencies planned to “render” Abdulhakim Belhadj and his wife Fatima Boudchar from Bangkok to Tripoli via Diego Garcia.

The UK initially denied that Diego Garcia was involved in the CIA’s rendition programme. But in 2008 then-Foreign Secretary Edward Miliband was forced to u-turn in an admission to Parliament where he admitted that rendition planes containing two detainees had landed on the island to refuel in 2002.

In addition, a report produced in 2007 by the Intelligence and Security Committee into the extraordinary rendition programme said: “…there was a request, in early 2004, to refuel a flight carrying a U.S.-held detainee, but in the event this did not take place.”

Lawyers at the charity Reprieve, which represents Mr Belhadj and his wife, have written to William Hague asking him to clarify exactly how the island was used.

Earlier this week, Al Jazeera reported that the Senate Intelligence Select Committee had found “that the CIA detained some high-value suspects on Diego Garcia, an Indian Ocean island controlled by the United Kingdom and leased to the United States,” adding that, “classified CIA documents say the black site arrangement at Diego Garcia was made with the “full cooperation” of the British government.”

Polly Rossdale, Deputy Director at Reprieve, said: “When he was handed over to Gaddafi, our client was told by the dictator’s spy chief that the UK territory of Diego Garcia had been the first stop on his torture tour. The British Government has already changed their mind once on the role of Diego Garcia in the CIA’s torture programme. Do they need to change their minds again?  Pressure is now mounting on the Foreign Secretary to answer our questions. The government must come clean about the UK’s role in this dirty affair.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Reprieve’s Press Office on: +44 (0) 7739 188 097 or clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk 2. The full letter from Reprieve to William Hague can be seen upon request. 3. The CIA document found in Libya revealing the scheduled flight path of Mr Belhadj and his wife Ms Boudchar can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2012/apr/08/rendition-cia-mi6 4. The Aljazeera America article reporting that there was a CIA black-site on Diego Garcia can be found here: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/4/9/senate-cia-torture.html