From mid July to the end of October, in 1940, Britain experienced the brutal display of the Luftwaffe. Political and economic areas were targeted; and the destructive ‘terror bombing campaign’, in order to break the will of the people. Throughout the Battle of Britain, and the subsequent Second World War, Winston Churchill prohibited the use of torture. The Prime Minister said authorising the use of torture would corroded “the character of a country”.
In 2004, MI6 provided intelligence to its Libyan counterparts on a dissident and his location. Abdel Hakim Belhadj capture would result in years of torture and abuse, which the United Kingdom colluded in. Memos and documents unearthed by Human Rights Watch provide a damning indictment of British complicity on torture. Geoffrey Robertson QC suggested the documents should be passed to the Gibson inquiry, in order to establish the causes and consequences. Of course, there is no evidence or question, of British officials participating in the actual capture and illegal rendition.
The most disturbing revelation is a letter written by Sir Mark Allen, MI6′s then counter-terrorism chief, in 2004 (who is now employed by BP) days before Blair’s arrival in Tripoli. Sir Allen, grotesquely, makes reference to British involvement in the information gathering and preventing the Americans from knowing about the ‘air cago’. Rather callous and heinous to illustrate an almost comedic scene by the counter-terrorism chief – the overall letter seems very light hearted and relaxed; Sir Allen is blissful about the entire rendition process; it was almost is if there was a macabre competition between British intelligence and the CIA.
Fundamentally, of course, the debate is predetermined to focus on previous ministers. Especially the Prime Minister(s) and Foreign Office; I anticipate questions will be asked about Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Jack Straw and David Miliband. When writing this blog post, the Prime Ministers spokesmen has informed the lobby that the Gibson inquiry will review this documents uncovered by Human Rights Watch. And this announcement is applauded; the documents are not an innocent or irrelevant description of British diplomacy. Officials and ministers were potentially conscious of crimes against humanity and facilitated in the process. Including covering up the evidence, which were suppressed; this is the most grievous crime in the calendar. It induces voluminous shame to this county, the citizens and the values we supposedly represent and defend. How can we allow anyone, possibly directly or indirectly, involved in torture to continue in public life – without punishment? Parliament has a duty to uphold the law and hold the executive to account; including previous administrations. It will be completely unjustified and immoral for Parliament to do nothing.
Sadly, whatever happens, the damage is already done. But the coalition needs to ensure that uncovering the truth is the first priority; we need to fully understand the British exposure to the Libyan human rights abuses and who, overall, was responsible for allowing these violations to remain secret and unknown from Parliament.