British prosecutors announced today that no-one will face criminal charges for involvement in the kidnap, transfer and torture of two Libyan dissidents and their families in 2004.
In 2011, Human Rights Watch found documentary evidence in Tripoli that UK authorities were involved in the rendition of Abdul Hakim Belhadj and his wife Fatima Boudchar to Libya in 2004, and in the separate rendition of Sami al-Saadi and his wife and children to Libya the same year, despite knowing that the two men risked being tortured. Both men were subsequently tortured in Libya.
In one document found by Human Rights Watch, a memo sent by a British official to the head of Libyan intelligence, the official appears to take credit for the transfer of Belhadj, noting: “This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over recent years…The intelligence…was British.”
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) statement makes clear that the UK government has a case to answer. While saying there is insufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime, it concludes that there is “sufficient evidence” that a UK official had been in “communication with individuals from the the foreign countries responsible for the detention and transfer of the Belhadj and Al Saadi families; disclosed aspects of what was occurring to others” [in the UK] and “sought political authority for some of his actions.”
The CPS investigation was the last remaining criminal inquiry into UK involvement in torture and rendition in the context of global counterterrorism efforts following the 9-11 attacks in the United States.
An inquiry into the wider pattern of UK involvement in torture and abuse was launched in 2010, and widely criticized by NGOs and lawyers over its lack of independence. The government halted it in 2012, citing the Libyan criminal cases which have just concluded, promising a second inquiry once they were wrapped up. But instead it handed the task to the Intelligence and Security Committee, a parliamentary body that has been criticized over an earlier failed investigation into related matters.
Though the US was clearly involved in the rendition of Belhadj and al-Saadi, there has also been no accountability in the United States for these renditions, or any others that the US was involved in following the September 11 attacks.
The Belhadj and al-Saadi families are still waiting for justice and a full accounting of the UK’s complicity in torture and abuse. It is now time for the UK government to honour its promise and establish a full, independent judicial inquiry to uncover the truth.