UK government apologies for role in Libyan rendition

Theresa May
Theresa May

The UK government has apologised for its role in a Libyan dissident’s 2004 abduction, torture and rendition to Libya.

In a letter, Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged that an MI6 tip-off allowed Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, to be detained by US forces in Thailand.

Mr Belhaj was taken from Thailand to Tripoli and spent six years in prison, during which he said he had been tortured.

Ms Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time, was detained but released shortly before giving birth.

My May’s letter was read out in Parliament by Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC following mediation with the government and a personal meeting between the Attorney General and the couple, in which they described their ordeal to him.

The letter reads: “It is clear that you were both subjected to appalling treatment and that you suffered greatly, not least to the dignity of Mrs Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time.

“The UK government believes your accounts. Neither of you should have been treated this way. The UK government’s actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering. The UK government shared information about you with its international partners.”

It adds: “We accept this was a failing on our part. On behalf of Her Majesty’s government, I apologise unreservedly.”

Cori Crider, Reprieve counsel to Mr Belhaj and Ms Boudchar, said: “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.”

Sapna Malik, partner at Leigh Day and solicitor to the family, added: “Today’s historic occasion is a tribute to the resilience of our clients in their quest for justice. After six long years of litigation, HMG has rightly acknowledged that, even in the fields of counter-terrorism and international relations, there are lines which must not be crossed and which were crossed here, with devastating consequences for my clients. This candid apology from the Government helps restore the humanity and dignity so brutally denied to my clients during their ordeal, and is warmly welcomed.”