Monday, September 05, 2011

Torture exposes West's hollow claims about democracy

The indictment gets longer. Still wanted over the illegal invasion of Iraq, former prime minister Blair could be open to prosecution over New Labour’s secret collaboration with the Gaddafi regime, leading international lawyer Philippe Sands has suggested.

Ironically, in the wake of the Nato-backed regime change in Libya, it has become crystal clear that British intelligence agency MI6 collaborated in the “rendering” of alleged terror suspects by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and were complicit in their torture.

Under New Labour, M16 tipped off the CIA to help ensnare and transport two leaders of the anti-Gaddafi opposition back to Tripoli where they were promptly imprisoned and tortured. MI6 also told Libyan intelligence about opposition figures who lived in Britain, supplying it with emails and telephone numbers.

As early as 2003 Mark Allen, head of counter-terrorism at MI6, wrote to former Libyan foreign intelligence and then foreign minister, Moussa Koussa on the friendliest of first-name terms.

US human rights campaigners found letters in Koussa’s home showing how pleased Allen was about the “delivery” of Abedelhakim Belhadj then known by his nom de guerre Abu Abdallah Sadiq. Belhadj says that British intelligence officers were among the first to interrogate him when he arrived in Libya and was promptly imprisoned and tortured.

The CIA paid for Belhadj and his deputy, Abu Munthir and their families’

air trips from Malayasia and Hong Kong. But Allen played a double-game, telling Koussa that he would not share information obtained by torture with the CIA – and how he found this “amusing”.

“I have no intention of doing any such thing [sharing information]. The intelligence about Abu Abdallah was British. I know I did not pay for the air cargo. But I feel I have the right to deal with you direct on this and am very grateful to you for the help you are giving us,” he wrote.

Mark Allen has since been knighted and is an advisor to BP.

UK Special Forces helped to train the Khamis Brigade run by one of Gaddafi’s sons. The elite SAS forces assisted Libyans in counter-terrorism techniques and surveillance between 2004 and 2009.

M16 also held counter-terrorism courses for them in 2006 to help them fight the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, then headed by Belhadj. The US had added this group to its list of banned terror groups in 2003. Ironically, Belhadj was one of the chief leaders in the overthrow of Gaddafi and is now head of the Tripoli Military Council which currently heads 8,000 troops. He has called for a full apology from Britain.

Although British diplomats tried to shred compromising documents before they fled Libya, they have been discovered in the residence of the British ambassador. They show how Labour PMs Blair and Brown wooed the Gaddafi family in terms of sycophantic flattery.

Using craven religious phraseology, Blair wrote in December 2006: “At this sacred time of harmony and reconciliation, recalling how our passionate God has mercy on mankind, I would like to express my personal wishes to you, to your family and to the Libyan people.”

But working with torturers in Libya was not enough for M16. While the British government made hypocritical noises about human rights in China, MI6 was cooperating with the notorious Chinese State Security Bureau: “We agreed that we would look at how we might engage the Chinese Services on the Islamic extremist target in China”, one letter says chillingly. It is well-known that the Chinese authorities have long been brutally repressing anyone campaigning for Uighur ethnic rights, denouncing them as Islamic terrorists.

Of course, when anti-Gaddafi forces in Libya were inspired by the Arab Spring to revolt, the Cameron-Clegg coalition changed the tune sung by Britain. But the same thinking lies behind this government: flatter the leaders, repress the opposition and above all - get the oil.

But as the evidence found in the ashes of the old regime prove, no amount of flattery or the torture of opponents can possibly guarantee this. Finally, what the revelations show is what we have always known – that fine words about “democracy” from the mouths of British governments are the height of hypocrisy – both at home and abroad.

Corinna Lotz

A World to Win secretary

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