Ahead of a vote in the US Senate over whether to declassify a major report on CIA torture, one of the Agency’s victims has called for the “open acknowledgement of past wrongs.”
Abdelhakim Belhadj, a Libyan anti-Gaddafi dissident who was ‘rendered’ and tortured – along with his pregnant wife, Fatima Boudchar – in a joint CIA-MI6 operation in 2004, has expressed his hope that the report will be declassified.
The couple’s case came to light after correspondence between Sir Mark Allen, then a senior MI6 officer, and Colonel Gaddafi’s spy chief was found following the Libyan revolution. In it, Sir Mark refers to the US part in the operation, saying “I know I did not pay for the air cargo,” but emphasising that the "the intelligence on [Mr Belhadj] was British.”
The couple were detained in China in February 2004, and subsequently flown to Bangkok, where they were held by US agents. Ms Boudchar, despite being pregnant at the time, was chained to a wall, and later taped tightly to a stretcher, blindfolded (also using tape) and hooded – which caused her to fear for the health of her baby. Meanwhile, Mr Belhadj was held in a ‘black site,’ where he was beaten on multiple occasions, hung from the wall by chains and subjected to sleep deprivation by being blasted with loud music.
Eventually, both of them were ‘rendered’ to Gaddafi’s Libya where Mr Belhadj, as an opponent of the dictator, faced years of imprisonment and torture.
Commenting ahead of today’s vote, Abdelhakim Belhadj said: “My wife and I very much hope this report will be declassified, so the American people can read the truth about the terrible mistakes made in their name. America and Britain are essential partners for the new Libya - but only if we openly acknowledge past wrongs can we move forward together as friends.”
Mr Belhadj and Ms Boudchar, with the support of legal charity Reprieve, are bringing a case against the UK Government over its part in their mistreatment – which is also being investigated by London’s Metropolitan Police.
Reprieve Strategic Director, Cori Crider said: “All Mr Belhadj and Ms Boudchar have asked is that the governments who kidnapped and tortured them admit what they did and apologise for it. Instead, the UK Government fought to throw their case out of court, on the grounds that it might embarrass the US. But this fig-leaf will finally drop – let us hope for good – once the US Senate votes to release its own report on CIA torture. Both the US and UK governments should come clean right away about their part in this dark episode of the ‘war on terror.’"