Death in Libya, Betrayal in the West

We condemned the unexplained death of the terror suspect Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi but the west has colluded in the mistreatment of Libyan dissidents

News of the death,
in a Libyan jail, of Ibn al-Shaikh al-Libi, a US terror suspect who was
the subject of an extraordinary rendition, then tortured in Egypt and
Jordan as well as CIA prisons in Afghanistan and Poland has,
understandably, raised questions about whether he committed suicide -
as the Libyan authorities claimed - or whether he was murdered. Just
two weeks ago, representatives of Human Rights Watch saw him in Tripoli's Abu Salim prison, and although he refused to speak to them, they reported that he "looked well."

Al-Libi's death should also raise uncomfortable questions for former US vice-president Dick Cheney, who is still turning up
with alarming regularity on US television, peddling his claims that the
use of torture saved America from further terrorist attacks. The focus
on al-Libi should be a stark reminder that, when he was rendered to
Egypt in early 2002, the CIA's proxy torturers extracted
a false confession from him - that al-Qaida operatives had received
training from Saddam Hussein in the use of chemical and biological
weapons - which was used not to protect the US from attack, but to
justify the invasion of Iraq. The claim featured prominently in
secretary of state Colin Powell's presentation to the UN, just a month before the invasion began.

However, beyond the story of al-Libi's mysterious death and of Dick Cheney's role in torturing him to launch an illegal war - as documented by Moazzam Begg earlier this week
- another disturbing aspect of America's cosy relationship with Colonel
Gaddafi, in the war on terror emerged in Human Rights Watch's press release
about al-Libi's death. The organisation noted that its researchers had
interviewed four other prisoners also rendered to Libya by the CIA, who
reported that they had been tortured - by or on behalf of US forces -
in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Thailand.

What struck me as particularly significant was that, in 2007, Noman Benotman, an exiled opponent of the Gaddafi regime, had explained
to the Washington Post that two of these men - Abdallah al-Sadeq and
Abu Munder al-Saadi - had been seized by the CIA in Thailand and Hong
Kong, but had only been "held briefly" before being rendered to
Tripoli, because the CIA "realised very quickly that these guys had
nothing to do with al-Qaida". In the bluntest terms possible, this
means that these men were flown halfway around the world, at the CIA's
expense, not because they were a threat to the US, but because they
were considered a threat to Gaddafi, even though, before Libya's
president adroitly joined the "war on terror", he was regarded as a
pariah and an international terrorist and those who opposed him were
seen as freedom fighters.

Moreover, these pawns in a political
game are found not only in the CIA's rendition programme. There are
also six prisoners in Guantanamo, picked up in Afghanistan and
Pakistan, who were automatically labelled as international terrorists
and associates of al-Qaeda because of their opposition to the Gaddafi

Closer to home, there are other examples in Britain too:
a handful of men, held without charge or trial, initially in Long
Lartin prison, and, since last year, on strict control orders that
amount to virtual house arrest, whose only "crime" was to seek asylum
at the wrong time. One of these men, identified only as Detainee DD,
arrived in Britain in 2004, around the same time that Tony Blair was in
Tripoli, meeting
Gaddafi for the first time and talking of the "new relationship" that
had become possible since the regime renounced its WMD programme.

In an interview
with the British human rights group Cageprisoners last year, DD
explained, "I left Libya because I opposed the regime of Gaddafi. I
came here as a political asylum seeker. My opposition to the Gaddafi
regime was purely political; it did not involve the use of any sort of
violence or force. This point is acknowledged by the British
authorities too." A talented artist, he has coped with a death sentence
hanging over him in Libya, and his constant fears that the British
government will succeed in deporting him to face certain death, by drawing a number of satirical cartoons criticising the British government for its hypocrisy.

both the US and the UK, the courts have intervened to prevent both
governments from forcibly repatriating these men, whose return would contravene the UN convention against torture. One of the Libyans in Guantanamo has been fighting
his involuntary return for two years. In the UK, the government's plans
to deport 12 Libyans, supposedly underpinned by a memorandum of
understanding signed between the British and Libyan governments guaranteeing that any deportees would be treated humanely, were derailed
last April by the appeal court, which ruled that the government had
failed to give enough weight to the risk of torture, and that the men
would face a "complete" denial of a fair trial if they were sent back
from Britain.

The fate of the Guantanamo prisoners is now in
President Obama's hands, but in Britain, where the government's
response to the appeal court's ruling was to impose control orders, detainee DD
and his fellow countrymen are still wondering when, if ever, their
disturbing legal limbo will come to an end. As DD explained last year:
"Indefinite detention without charge is found only in dictator
countries like Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt etc. If this country is
to maintain democracy we must put a stop to indefinite detention
without charge."

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

© 2023 The Guardian