Britain's links to the torture of Libyans to be "investigated"

Cameron confirms that the Gibson Inquiry will look at new allegations, but its credibility has alrea

"Our relationship with the new Libyan regime must deal with the significant issues in the past," said David Cameron in his statement to the Commons this afternoon. Given today's allegations about Britain's complicity in the extraordinary rendition and torture of Libyans, these issues look very significant indeed.

The controversy centres on Abdul Hakim Belhaj, now the National Transitional Council's military commander. Documents found in Libya appear to indicate that the UK and the US provided intelligence to Libyan authorities about Belhaj, then a terror suspect, which led to his capture in Bangkok in 2004.

In Cameron's speech to the Commons, he reiterated that the Gibson Inquiry, set up to consider the improper treatment of detainees at Guantanmo Bay, would look at these new allegations. He said:

My concern throughout has been not only to remove any stain on Britain's reputation, but also to deal with any allegations of malpractice to enable the secret services to do the enormously important work they do.

But is this move enough to fulfil these aims? It seems unlikely. When the terms and protocols of the Gibson Inquiry were announced last month, ten campaign groups, including Reprieve, Liberty, and Amnesty International, said that they would boycott proceedings, because it lacked credibility and transparency.

The solicitors of some detainees also said they would not co-operate with the inquiry because it failed to ensure any meaningful participation by detainees, and provided no opportunity to question evidence from intelligence officials.

Given this resounding lack of faith in the inquiry, it is highly unlikely that including the latest allegations will do anything to quash them.

Belhaj has demanded an apology from the UK and US governments over the allegation that they were involved in the plot which led to his capture in 2004, and has threatened to sue. Indeed, the courts may be the best place to thoroughly investigate this issue. During the Binyam Mohamed case, a court order was issued forcing the British government to publish secret memos it received from US intelligence officials as it was ruled that the public interest outweighed the potential risk to national security. This was hugely embarrassing for the government, and sets a precedent for future cases.

In the Commons, the Prime Minister appeared more concerned with emphasising his support for the secret services than with these serious allegations, and repeatedly urged people not to "rush to judgement" given the context of heightened security concerns in 2003. But regardless of whether Belhaj's alleged links to Al-Qaeda were genuine, participating in rendition and complicity in torture is illegal. It is urgent that these allegations are explored in a credible, open investigation.

 

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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If there’s no booze or naked women, what’s the point of being a footballer?

Peter Crouch came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

At a professional league ground near you, the following conversation will be taking place. After an excellent morning training session, in which the players all worked hard, and didn’t wind up the assistant coach they all hate, or cut the crotch out of the new trousers belonging to the reserve goalie, the captain or some senior player will go into the manager’s office.

“Hi, gaffer. Just thought I’d let you know that we’ve booked the Salvation Hall. They’ll leave the table-tennis tables in place, so we’ll probably have a few games, as it’s the players’ Christmas party, OK?”

“FECKING CHRISTMAS PARTY!? I TOLD YOU NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES THIS YEAR. NOT AFTER LAST YEAR. GERROUT . . .”

So the captain has to cancel the booking – which was actually at the Salvation Go Go Gentlemen’s Club on the high street, plus the Saucy Sporty Strippers, who specialise in naked table tennis.

One of the attractions for youths, when they dream of being a footballer or a pop star, is not just imagining themselves number one in the Prem or number one in the hit parade, but all the girls who’ll be clambering for them. Young, thrusting politicians have similar fantasies. Alas, it doesn’t always work out.

Today, we have all these foreign managers and foreign players coming here, not pinching our women (they’re too busy for that), but bringing foreign customs about diet and drink and no sex at half-time. Rotters, ruining the simple pleasures of our brave British lads which they’ve enjoyed for over a century.

The tabloids recently went all pious when poor old Wayne Rooney was seen standing around drinking till the early hours at the England team hotel after their win over Scotland. He’d apparently been invited to a wedding that happened to be going on there. What I can’t understand is: why join a wedding party for total strangers? Nothing more boring than someone else’s wedding. Why didn’t he stay in the bar and get smashed?

Even odder was the behaviour of two other England stars, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson. They made a 220-mile round trip from their hotel in Hertfordshire to visit a strip club, For Your Eyes Only, in Bournemouth. Bournemouth! Don’t they have naked women in Herts? I thought one of the points of having all these millions – and a vast office staff employed by your agent – is that anything you want gets fixed for you. Why couldn’t dancing girls have been shuttled into another hotel down the road? Or even to the lads’ own hotel, dressed as French maids?

In the years when I travelled with the Spurs team, it was quite common in provincial towns, after a Saturday game, for players to pick up girls at a local club and share them out.

Like top pop stars, top clubs have fixers who can sort out most problems, and pleasures, as well as smart solicitors and willing police superintendents to clear up the mess afterwards.

The England players had a night off, so they weren’t breaking any rules, even though they were going to play Spain 48 hours later. It sounds like off-the-cuff, spontaneous, home-made fun. In Wayne’s case, he probably thought he was doing good, being approachable, as England captain.

Quite why the other two went to Bournemouth was eventually revealed by one of the tabloids. It is Lallana’s home town. He obviously said to Jordan Henderson, “Hey Hendo, I know a cool club. They always look after me. Quick, jump into my Bentley . . .”

They spent only two hours at the club. Henderson drank water. Lallana had a beer. Don’t call that much of a night out.

In the days of Jimmy Greaves, Tony Adams, Roy Keane, or Gazza in his pomp, they’d have been paralytic. It was common for players to arrive for training still drunk, not having been to bed.

Peter Crouch, the former England player, 6ft 7in, now on the fringes at Stoke, came out with one of the wittiest football lines. When asked what he thought he would have been but for football, he replied: “A virgin.”

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage