Why has Theresa May apologised to Abdul Hakim Belhaj?

Blanche Robertson
May 11, 2018

The renditions happened at the height of the USA -led "war on terror", and at a time when Britain was trying to improve relations with Gadhafi, a former global pariah who had recently renounced weapons of mass destruction. "The British government has apologized after six years", she said through an interpreter.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Boudchar said she was chained to a wall and tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency when she was pregnant while being detained at a secret site in Thailand.

Boudchar who was at parliament with her son to hear the apology, welcomed the verdict: "I thank the British government for its apology and for inviting me and my son to the United Kingdom to hear it".

"The UK government believes your accounts".

Speaking in Istanbul, where he is involved in peace talks, Mr Belhaj said: "The wording of the apology was heartfelt.There was a feeling of concern, an admission of the shortcomings, an expression of unreserved apology, lessons learned, admission of failings and an expression of disappointment towards the worldwide partners that I was handed over to".

In a letter to Koussa, dated 18 March 2004, Mark Allen, MI6's counterterrorism chief, congratulated him on Belhaj's "safe arrival" in Tripoli, adding that British involvement in the operation was "the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years".

Under the administration of former President George W. Bush, the Central Intelligence Agency practised so-called "extraordinary renditions", or extra-judicial transfers of suspects from one country to another, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The case might also cause waves across the Atlantic, and a shine a light on Donald Trump's nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel, who is facing questions about her role running alleged rendition programmes after 9/11.

Rendition - defined as the practice of covertly taking a suspect to be interrogated in a country with less rigorous regulations for the humane treatment of prisoners - was widely used in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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It came as Britain reached a "full and final" settlement over the case.

In written statements sent by their lawyers shortly after the apology was made public, Belhadj and Boudchar thanked the British government.

Belhaj and Boudchar, backed by Reprieve, the organisation that brings together human rights defenders, have been suing the home office, the foreign office, Mi6, the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former head of counter-terrorism at Mi6 Sir Mark Allen.

The couple have fought a long, high-profile battle with the British Government, claiming part of the deal to reopen diplomatic links with Libya involved the illegal kidnapping and flying of Libyan dissidents to Tripoli.

"We are profoundly sorry for the ordeal that you both suffered and our role in it", Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, said in a letter read out to the House of Commons, the lower chamber of the U.K. Parliament. His wife was awarded 500,000 pounds (almost $676,000).

"This apology is accepted and it puts an end to years of suffering", he said.

"It is also important that we should act in line with our values and in accordance with the rule of law", Wright said in his statement.

After his release, Belhadj went on to command an Islamist rebel group that helped topple Gaddafi in 2011.

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