British Prime Minister apologises for the torture and kidnapping of Abdelhakim Belhaj

British Prime Minister apologises for the torture and kidnapping of Abdelhakim Belhaj

The British government has offered an unprecedented formal apology to Libyan dissident Abdelhakim Belhaj. Belhaj was apprehended in Thailand in 2004 thanks to information provided by MI6. He was sent back to Libya where he was tortured in prison for six years on the orders of Muammar Gaddafi.

British Prime Minister Theresa May apologised to Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, stating that she "sincerely regretted" the "failures" and "missed opportunities" that led to their torture. Attorney general Jeremy Wright read out a letter written by May and announced that Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time of her kidnapping, would receive £500,000 in compensation, despite the fact that the couple had not sought a financial settlement.

Theresa May wrote: “Your accounts were moving and what happened to you is deeply troubling. It is clear that you were both subjected to appalling treatment and that you suffered greatly, not least the affront to the dignity of Ms Boudchar, who was pregnant at the time. The UK Government believes your accounts. Neither of you should have been treated in this way."

She added: "The UK Government shared information about you with its international partners. We should have done more to reduce the risk that you would be mistreated. We accept 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. On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, I apologise unreservedly. The UK Government has learned many lessons from this period. We should have understood much sooner the unacceptable practices of some of our international partners. And we sincerely regret our failures."

Belhaj himself stated: "At last, justice has been done. My wife and I hope our case will serve as a marker for future generations. A great society does not torture; does not help others to torture; and, when it makes mistakes, it accepts them and apologises. Britain has made a wrong right today."

Belhaj was held at an American black site in Thailand and send back to Libya, because Britain and the US were keen to build positive relations with the late Libyan dictator, and Belhaj was strongly opposed to Colonel Gaddafi's regime. After his release in 2010, he later became the leader of the Tripoli Military Council during the 2011 civil war. In June 2017, Belhadj was placed on a terrorist watchlist due to his alleged ties to radical Salafist Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia.