London – After repeated denials, secret proceedings and outright deceit, the British government has finally apologised for the kidnapping, rendition and torture of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his then pregnant wife, Fatima Boudchar.

The apology is a testimony to the tenacity of Belhaj and Boudchar, their family, friends and supporters – and a step forward in advancing the public discourse around British involvement in rendition and torture.

However, from the beginning, on the advice of the Intelligence Select Committee, the courts have refused to hold key individuals accountable, including Tony Blair and then foreign secretary Jack Straw, as well as former head of MI6’s counter-terrorism team Mark Allen.

As a result, those who likely directed and sanctioned the operation have again escaped accountability and remain protected by the government.

Moazzam Begg, outreach director for CAGE, said:

“During the ‘Arab Spring’, I travelled to Libya for CAGE with the legal teams of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi to encourage them to seek justice for what they’d endured. That initial meeting has finally resulted in the desired apology from the prime minister, who clearly admitted that the British government was responsible for kidnapping, false imprisonment and torture.”

“Though the apology is welcome, and something for which the Belhaj family has endured years of trial and patience, the individuals who sanctioned their abhorrent treatment still remain unscathed. In order to restore the rule of law, these individuals must be prosecuted.”

“Former foreign secretary Jack Straw in 2005 called British complicity in torture a “conspiracy theory.” It’s now time for him to apologise too. As well as this, we also renew calls for those involved in the direction and sanction of the torture of individuals such as Shaker Aamer, Binyam Mohamed and other Guantanamo prisoners, to be held to account.”

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)