In an unprecedented statement to the British Parliament today, the UK Prime Minister acknowledged her country’s role in the CIA’s ‘war on terror’ era torture program – and apologized to a couple who were abducted, tortured and rendered to Libya in 2004.
The apology to Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who are being represented by Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider, comes just a day after Gina Haspel, President Trump’s pick for Director of the CIA, evaded difficult questions about her own role in the torture program during her confirmation hearing in Washington, DC.
“This is not just Abdul-Hakim and Fatima’s victory. It is a victory for everyone who opposes injustice, secret detention, and torture. We are gratified by today’s apology and respect the sincere spirit in which it was given. History will judge the CIA’s torture program as a grave mistake and a crime. Britain lost its way when it got mixed up in rendition, but today, by apologizing for its part in that dark story, the UK has stood on the right side of history.”
Cori Crider, Reprieve counsel to the family
The apology, delivered today in Parliament by the Attorney General Jeremy Wright, comes in a letter from Prime Minister Theresa May to the family. It follows a mediation with the Government and a personal meeting between the Attorney General and the couple, in which they described their ordeal to him.
Fatima Boudchar and her eldest son Abderrahim attended Parliament for the apology. Mr Belhaj will receive the apology immediately afterward at a separate ceremony in Istanbul.
The apology is unprecedented in scope for a “war on terror” case. It says that the couple’s “harrowing experiences…[are] deeply troubling,” and that the UK Government “believes [their] accounts” of their abduction and torture.
The apology accepts that the UK’s actions “contributed to your detention, rendition and suffering,” and that UK officials wrongly “sought information about and from” Mr Belhaj during his detention and torture in Gaddafi’s Libya.
“I welcome and accept the Prime Minister’s apology, and I extend to her and the Attorney General my thanks and goodwill. For more than six years I have made clear that I had a single goal in bringing this case: justice. Now, 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 apologizes. Britain has made a wrong right today, and set an example for other nations to follow.”
“I thank the British Government for its apology and for inviting me and my son to the UK to hear it. I accept the government’s apology. This case has forced me to relive the lowest moments in my life for years, and at times it has been a real struggle to keep going. But by today’s settlement I look forward to rebuilding my life with dignity and honor, and living free from the weight of these events with my husband and our five beautiful children.”