Prosecutors to announce result of review of Libyan renditions cases

August 5, 2016

Image of Sami al Saadi looking away

The Crown Prosecutions Service (CPS) is today expected to announce the result of a ‘victims’ review’ of the decision not to bring charges over the UK Government’s involvement in the kidnap and ‘rendition’ of two families to Libya.  In a phone call yesterday afternoon to international human rights charity Reprieve – which represents the families – the CPS said the announcement would be made at 11 am BST today (Friday 5 August).

The move has drawn fire from the al Saadi and Belhaj families and their representatives at Reprieve, who say they have had no real opportunity to participate in a review that is meant to place victims at its very heart.

On 9 June, the CPS announced that it would not bring charges against the lead suspect, a senior ex-MI6 official who orchestrated a 2004 operation which saw anti-Gaddafi dissidents Sami al Saadi and Abdul Hakim Belhaj kidnapped and rendered along with their families – which included Mr al Saadi’s four children aged 12 and under, and Mr Belhaj’s pregnant wife, Fatima Boudchar.

The CPS stated that the official – Sir Mark Allen – had “sought political approval” for some of his actions, but claimed there was “insufficient evidence” to bring charges. The CPS offered almost no explanation, despite the fact that Sir Mark took credit for arranging the rendition of the “air cargo” in a 2004 fax to Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s spy chief.

In a failing the families say has characterized the CPS’ attitude to them as victims, the decision got their names wrong. It referred to Sami, the al-Saadi father, as ‘Khadija’, his daughter’s name.

The families had previously objected to the reviewers assigned to the case – Greg McGill and Deb Walsh – because they report to DPP Alison Saunders and Sue Hemming, the two officials who made the first decision.

The families asked for an independent counsel to review the file, as was done in the Lord Janner case, and in mid-July asked to participate in the process to the fullest extent.  The CPS did not respond to this request.

The CPS’ review has taken notably less time than the original decision.  The CPS took over a year to make a charging decision in Operation Lydd, defending this delay, at the time, on the basis that the Metropolitan Police file was long and complex. The file is, apparently, complex—the Met said they sent prosecutors a dossier of 28,000 pages— yet Mr McGill’s team have had the review for just over fifty days. This raises doubts about whether the review team even read the full police file.

The case of the Belhaj and al-Saadi families is thought to be the only one where the victims included women, one pregnant, and four children, one just six years old.

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

Cori Crider, an attorney at Reprieve who represents the families said: “I am baffled that the CPS thinks it can make this decision without even consulting the Belhaj and al-Saadi families. It is called a Victim’s Right of Review, yet somehow, CPS don’t want to hear from victims, think the victims have no rights, and haven’t done much of a review. When top MI6 officials engage in a conspiracy to kidnap pregnant women and children, a box-ticking exercise from the CPS just won’t do. It is essential that the review command public confidence. The process to date has been hopelessly flawed.”

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