Belhaj Litigation: UK Apologises over Libyan Dissident Treatment
Zubair Ahmad was a Special Advocate in the private law claim and Judicial Review in the Belhaj litigation
The UK government has apologised to Libyan dissident Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar after its actions contributed to their detention, transfer to Libya and his torture by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in 2004.
It is believed that an MI6 tip-off led to them being kidnapped by the US in Thailand. Following the kidnapping, Mr Belhaj was taken to Tripoli where he was imprisoned for 6 years and where he alleges he was tortured by his captives. Ms Boudchar who was 5 months pregnant at the time of capture, was also detained but was released shortly before giving birth.
In a letter read out in the Commons, Prime Minister Teresa May said UK actions had contributed to the couple’s capture and that the government had “shared information” about them with “international partners”.
The letter read: “It is clear that you were both subjected to appalling treatment and that you suffered greatly, not least to the dignity of Mrs Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time.
“The UK government believes your accounts. Neither of you should have been treated this way. The UK government’s actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering. The UK government shared information about you with its international partners.”
Mrs May said the UK “should have done more to reduce the risk” of the pair being mistreated, adding: “We accept this was a failing on our part. On behalf of Her Majesty’s government, I apologise unreservedly.”
Ms Boudchar has accepted Mrs May’s apology and will receive a £500,000 payout.
The settlement is the first time ministers have apologised for a specific act involving British security agencies.
Mr Belhaj was an opponent of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi and commanded the now defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which staged a low-level insurgency war and attempted to assassinate Col Gaddafi three times.
He fled the country in 2001 but was three years later abducted in Bangkok – along with his wife, then five-months pregnant – while attempting to fly to London to claim asylum in the UK.
Mr Belhaj is now a politician in Libya.
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