Rendition victim “staggered” as MI6 official implicated in his abuse breaks silence

September 9, 2016

Image of Abdul-hakim Belhaj

A man who was rendered to Gaddafi’s Libya in a joint MI6-CIA operation has written to Sir Mark Allen, the former MI6 official who was responsible for his ordeal, following a rare public comment by Sir Mark.

In a recent article for the Catholic Herald, Sir Mark Allen – formerly head of counter-terrorism at MI6 – argued for a faith-based “answer to terrorism.”

The article, published in August, was Sir Mark’s first known public comment since the exposure in 2011 of his role in the 2004 kidnap and rendition of two families to Libya – including Abdul Hakim Belhaj, his pregnant wife Fatima Boudchar, and the al-Saadis, who included a child as young as six. The Catholic Herald piece was published a day before the UK Crown Prosecution Service publicly confirmed its decision not to charge Sir Mark over the affair.

Evidence of the UK’s central role in the MI6-CIA operation emerged after the fall of Colonel 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 Sir Mark 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].”

In a response, which was offered to the Catholic Herald, Mr Belhaj wrote that “as a man [Sir Mark] wronged”, he found the article “staggering.” He said:

“I agree with some of what [Sir Mark] wrote in the Catholic Herald… But I am afraid that, from the author of that fax, his words on the power of faith to see us through bloodshed are too rich to swallow. It is staggering to read such sentiments from a man whose approach to the ‘war on terror’—best summarized as ‘the ends justify the means’ — helped create the mess we find ourselves in.


“Perhaps he believes that if you feel regret, or confess it in private, your account is settled with God. Excuse me if I speak plainly: this is wrong and hypocritical… We cannot show the world that torture is wrong without owning up to our errors.


“Fatima and I are ready to forgive. Our offer of forgiveness has always been, and remains, sincere. But he must be prepared to look on us as humans, no different from himself, and say, honestly, what happened and apologise. We trust in his faith to guide him. We are ready. But what about Sir Mark?”

Commenting, Cori Crider – Mr Belhaj’s lawyer at the human rights organization Reprieve – said:

“I query how a Christian paper can, in good faith, run articles from Sir Mark about ‘the greater order of Love’ while batting away the views of his victims. My client pointed out an uncomfortable fact: their author played a key role in the abduction of two families to Gaddafi’s dungeons – and he’s dodged responsibility for his actions for years.


“Perhaps Sir Mark thought no one would notice. The piece in the Herald was his first turn in the public eye since the world read his fawning note to Moussa Koussa, celebrating the rendition of Belhaj and his pregnant wife. And he published the day before prosecutors announced he would get off scot-free for the kidnappings.


“Confession and repentance are key tenets of Catholicism. All Abdul Hakim and Fatima ask is an apology. The offer is still there.”


Notes to editors

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

2. Sir Mark’s Catholic Herald article can be read here, while Mr Belhadj’s response is available in full at the Reprieve website.

3. Background on the recent CPS decision is available here.

4. Mr Belhadj’s response was made public today by the Guardian.