Friday, May 11, 2018

An insincere apology

In 2004, Britain helped the CIA kidnap Libyan dissident Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his family from Thailand. Belhaj and his pregnant wife were rendered to Libya, where they were imprisoned by the Gaddafi regime. Belhaj was tortured. MI6 knew and wanted this to happen. Now, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has purportedly "apologised" for the government's actions:

Theresa May has issued an unprecedented apology for Britain’s role in the “appalling” treatment of a Libyan dissident and his wife, who were victims of a rendition operation mounted with the help of MI6.

The prime minister wrote to Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, to apologise unreservedly on behalf of the government for its failings over the case and missed opportunities to end their ordeal.

The attorney general, Jeremy Wright, read out May’s letter in the Commons as he announced that Boudchar, who was pregnant when the couple were kidnapped, would receive £500,000 compensation for the UK’s role in her treatment. Belhaj has neither sought, nor received, a financial settlement.


In her letter, May admitted the UK should have done more to reduce the risk that the couple could be mistreated, and had wrongly missed opportunities to help them once they were held in the prisons of the former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

She acknowledged that Britain should have realised sooner that its allies were involved in unacceptable practices, implying criticism of Libya for torture and the CIA’s practice of rendition.

If you believe May, this was all a terrible misunderstanding, poor British spies not really understanding what they were doing and what horrors they were sending Belhaj to. Bullshit. They knew all along, about both American and Libyan torture. They visited Belhaj in the prison where he was being tortured and questioned him. Pretending now that they didn't know about it is just Britain minimising its crimes, as usual.

An apology was what Belhaj was seeking, and he may be satisfied with this. But we should not be. The criminals who arranged his rendition, who knowingly sent him to be tortured in exchange for political favour with Libya, are still free. No-one has been held to account. And unless there is accountability for these crimes, there is no incentive for them not to be repeated.

But no doubt then we'll see an equally insincere apology and compensation from an establishment which has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.