United Kingdom apology over Libyan dissident rendition

Abdelhakim Belhaj in 2011

Belhaj and his wife, Fatima Boudchar, have been battling for compensation from former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6 Sir Mark Allen, as well as the intelligence agency and the Foreign Office themselves, for the past six years, after evidence emerged of the involvement of MI6 officers, alongside the CIA, in their 2004 kidnap in Thailand.

At the time, Britain and the United States were trying to mend relations with Gadafy's Libya for geopolitical reasons, after years during which the Tripoli regime had been an worldwide pariah.

Ms Boudchar and her son Abderrahim are due to attend the Attorney General's statement in Parliament, while Mr Belhaj will be holding a news conference in Istanbul shortly afterwards.

"The UK government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering".

"The U.K. government's actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering", the letter said. "We should have understood much sooner the unacceptable practices of some of our worldwide partners and we sincerely regret our failures", the prime minister's statement also said.

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

Boudchar was in the public gallery of the House of Commons with her son, now 14, to hear the apology. Other nations are alleged to have lent assistance in some cases.




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.

"A great society does not torture, does not help others to torture, and when it makes mistakes it accepts them and apologises", Mr Belhadj said.

The couple legally challenged the UK's former foreign affairs minister, numerous government ministries, and a senior British intelligence official, as part of their effort to obtain an apology and "symbolic damages".

Following the announcement of the verdict in parliament, British MPs labelled the government's complicity in the couple's abduction as "shameful" and "a gross violation of global humanitarian law".

While Boudchar was awarded half a million pounds in compensation, Belhaj has neither sought, nor received a financial settlement.

Wright said the settlement contained no admission of liability.

"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. He is now a politician in Libya.

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