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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Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs

Obama:

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

Trump:

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming

Obama:

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

Trump:

On the Middle East:

Obama:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 

Trump:

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”

Obama:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Trump:

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

 

On trade

Obama:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  

Trump:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland