BREAKING: Prime Minister apologises for UK role in abduction, torture and rendition of Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar

  • Head of group opposing Gaddafi dictatorship and pregnant wife abducted and tortured
  • UK complicity case first brought in 2012, with offer to settle for apology and no damages
  • Prime Minister and Attorney General today “profoundly sorry” for “harrowing ordeal”

The British Government has today apologised to Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar for the UK’s role in their 2004 abduction, torture, and rendition to Libya.

“This is not just Abdul-Hakim and Fatima’s victory. It is a victory for everyone who opposes injustice, secret detention, and torture. We are gratified by today’s apology and respect the sincere spirit in which it was given. History will judge the CIA’s torture programme as a grave mistake and a crime. Britain lost its way when it got mixed up in rendition, but today, by apologising for its part in that dark story, the UK has stood on the right side of history.”

Cori Crider, Reprieve counsel to the family

The apology, delivered today in Parliament by the Attorney General Jeremy Wright, comes in a letter from Prime Minister Theresa May to the family. It follows a mediation with the Government and a personal meeting between the Attorney General and the couple, in which they described their ordeal to him.

Fatima Boudchar and her eldest son Abderrahim attended Parliament for the apology. Mr Belhaj will receive the apology immediately afterward at a separate ceremony in Istanbul.

The apology is unprecedented in scope for a “war on terror” case. It says that the couple’s “harrowing experiences…[are] deeply troubling,” and that the UK Government “believes [their] accounts” of their abduction and torture.

The apology accepts that the UK’s actions “contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering,” and that UK officials wrongly “sought information about and from” Mr Belhaj during his detention and torture in Gaddafi’s Libya.

Reaction

“I welcome and accept the Prime Minister’s apology, and I extend to her and the Attorney General my thanks and goodwill. For more than six years I have made clear that I had a single goal in bringing this case: justice. Now, at last, justice has been done. My wife and I hope our case will serve as a marker for future generations. A great society does not torture; does not help others to torture; and, when it makes mistakes, it accepts them and apologises. Britain has made a wrong right today, and set an example for other nations to follow.”

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj

“I thank the British Government for its apology and for inviting me and my son to the UK to hear it. I accept the government’s apology. This case has forced me to relive the lowest moments in my life for years, and at times it has been a real struggle to keep going. But by today’s settlement I look forward to rebuilding my life with dignity and honour, and living free from the weight of these events with my husband and our five beautiful children.”

Fatima Boudchar

 

Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar

The story behind today’s apology for UK’s role in abduction, torture and rendition of Libyan dissident and his pregnant wife.

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