Thursday, May 10, 2018


Body language, 20 September2017. Photo by AFP via Getty Images/Brendan Smialowski, from Newsweek.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has tendered an "unreserved" apology to a Libyan couple, the Islamist politician and military leader Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, for the UK's participation (giving a tip to the CIA) in a "rendition" operation in 2004, when they were kidnapped in the Kuala Lumpur airport, hooded and shackled, and flown by "Coalition of the Willing" forces to a black torture site in Thailand and thence to a Qadhafi-run prison where they were tortured and Belhaj was held for six years (Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time of the kidnapping, was released after she'd given birth), and offered them a compensation of £500,000, although they hadn't actually asked for a settlement.
“The UK government’s actions contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering. The UK government shared information about you to its international partners. We should have done more to reduce the risk that you would be mistreated. We accept that this was a failing on our part.
“Later, during your detention in Libya we sought information about and from you. We wrongly missed opportunities to alleviate your plight. This should not have happened.”
She said: “On behalf of her majesty’s government I apologise unreservedly. We are profoundly sorry for the ordeal that you both suffered and our role in it. The UK government has learned many lessons from this period. We should have realised much sooner the unacceptable practices of some of our international allies, and we sincerely regret our failures.”
Note that this is notwithstanding that Belhaj really was a Taliban affiliate who'd been engaged in training Arabs to fight in Afghanistan. That's not why he was kidnapped anyway; it was to gratify Muamar al-Qadhafi:
Two weeks after the couple were taken to Libya, Tony Blair paid his first visit to the country, holding a now infamous summit in the desert with Gaddafi and announcing that Libya had joined the fight against extremism and terrorism. Simultaneously, a lucrative gas exploration deal was signed by the Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell.
It is really striking to me that May makes this gesture of rejecting the practices of US spy agencies in the Iraq War on moral principle in the week Trump's candidate for DCI, Gina Haspel, testifying in the Senate on her fitness to hold the position, is unable to do that. And rejects that the UK should have cooperated with those practices in even the smallest way, in the week that Trump cuts out of the P5 + 1 agreement, like a formal declaration of the outlaw status of the United States. She, and her government, have "learned", later than they should have, that US practices are "unacceptable", not regrettable or deplorable or what have you.

The timing is probably coincidence—these things take a while to prepare and don't get trotted out spontaneously—but it still sounds like a breakup letter.

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