No answers from Blair on Libya renditions and torture
December 11, 2015
Tony Blair has today failed to provide information to MPs about his role in the UK-orchestrated rendition of two anti-Gaddafi dissidents and their families to the Libyan dictator.
Speaking at a Foreign Affairs Committee session on UK-Libya policy, Mr Blair discussed the effects of the 2004 so-called ‘deal in the desert’. However, he was not questioned about the UK’s role in the rendition and torture of Sami al-Saadi and Abdulhakim Belhadj – two Gaddafi opponents who, at the time of the Blair deal, were kidnapped in a joint MI6-CIA operation and taken forcibly to Libya, along with their families. Both Mr Belhadj and Mr al-Saadi were held in prisons and tortured for six years. The al-Saadi children were aged twelve, eleven, nine and six years old at the time of the rendition, while Mr Belhadj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, was heavily pregnant.
The UK’s role in these operations was revealed in 2011, when faxes from MI6 to Gaddafi’s spy chief Moussa Koussa were found following the fall of the regime. In those faxes, Sir Mark Allen, then head of Counter-Terrorism at MI6, took credit for the role of UK intelligence in securing the arrival of what he termed the “air cargo.” Despite this, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair has never admitted to his role in, or knowledge of, the operations. Abdulhakim Belhadj and Ms Boudchar are currently bringing a civil case against the UK government, asking for a token payment of £1 and an apology for their ordeal. The case reached the Supreme Court in November this year.
The Metropolitan Police opened a criminal investigation – code named Operation Lydd – into the renditions of both the Belhadj and al Saadi families in January 2012. Since then they have reportedly sent several files to the CPS, the first apparently in October 2014 and the most recent reportedly in summer this year. The case is now awaiting a prosecuting decision from the CPS.
Commenting, Cori Crider, lawyer for both families and a director at international human rights organization Reprieve, said:
“Today Mr Blair left many vital questions unanswered on his Libya record. Did his 2003-2004 discussions with Gaddafi include the rendition of Libyan dissidents like Abdulhakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi to the tyrant’s torture chambers – along with the al-Saadi children and Mr Belhadj’s pregnant wife? The British government has never grappled with this most shameful element of Blair’s deal in the desert – it’s disappointing that we seem to be no closer to the truth today.”
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London press 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 / +1 917 855 8064.