FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Post 9/11 Torture Network

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Here is an account by a Libyan, who did not want to disclose his name, of what it was like to be tortured by Libyan security. He says: “I was blindfolded and taken upstairs. I was shocked with electricity and made to sit on broken glass. They were kicking and punching me until I confessed. I said ‘No’.” This went on for over a week.

One day the interrogators tied his hands behind his back and took him upstairs. He continues: “They opened the door and I saw my son and wife. There were five or six members of security with masks. They tied me to a chair and one of them said: ‘Do you want to sign or should we torture them?'”

According to the prisoner one of the interrogators took his 10-month-old son and put a wire on his hand and “he screamed and his face turned red”. The little boy appeared to stop breathing. Soon afterwards the prisoner signed the confession demanded by Libyan security.

The testimony about the baby’s torture in front of his father was recorded by Human Rights Watch in Tripoli in 2005. The same year the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding accepting Libyan diplomatic assurances that torture would not be used against Libyan exiles repatriated from the UK to Libya. Few documents agreed to by a British government exude so much hypocrisy and cynicism.

Will the close co-operation on what amounted to farming out torture by the CIA and MI6 to Muammar Gaddafi and his interrogators be forgotten in the rush of events in Libya? Western intelligence services presumably hope so. The fragile and divided Libyan authorities may think twice before quarrelling with the very organizations whose aid over the past six months enabled them to defeat Gaddafi.

I saw Abdelhakim Belhaj, the head of the military council controlling all militia brigades in Tripoli, last week and asked him about how he was arrested in Malaysia, tortured in Thailand, and sent back for more torture and imprisonment in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. Given the Libyan rebels’ reliance on Nato air strikes, I thought it likely that Belhaj, a founder of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which had been accused of links to al-Qa’ida, would avoid talking about his rendition. Instead Belhaj showed that he was still a very angry man. He said he was considering suing those responsible.

It is good that Belhaj is not willing to cover up what happened to him, and that his story is confirmed by documents in Tripoli proving the cosy relationship between MI6, the CIA and Gaddafi. It should help to discredit the way in which the world’s most disgusting and oppressive dictators have been able in the decade since 9/11 to claim that anybody opposing them was an Islamic fundamentalist linked to al-Qa’ida. By 2003 the government of Uzbekistan boiled to death two prisoners and still got a US grant for its security services.

The degradation of standards started almost immediately in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban with the denial of the status of prisoners of war being granted to captives. In northern Afghanistan General Rashid Dostum, a warlord of notorious brutality but an ally of the CIA, had hundreds, if not thousands, of prisoners buried alive or packed into containers to suffocate.

It now turns out that several of the rebels who played a crucial role in overthrowing Gaddafi, and have been lauded as freedom fighters by Western leaders, were among those savagely tortured by MI6’s friends in Abu Salim. This might just begin to turn the tide against the systematic mistreatment of prisoners which has become such a hallmark of the security world since 9/11.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq and Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail