UK gov't: yes, we kidnapped people and sent them to be tortured by Qaddafi, but you can't sue us

After the fall of the Qaddafi regime, secret police documents were discovered linking the UK spy agency MI6 with the kidnap of two leading Libyan dissidents and their families, in order to deliver them to Qaddafi's torturers. The UK government has admitted that its spies are guilty of this crime, but point to a law that says that British spies can't be held liable for their crimes, provided that the secretary of state signs off on them, and the secretary did.

The "acts" can take place only overseas and remain illegal both under the laws of the country where they are committed and possibly under international law. But, section 7 says, with the stroke of a pen a secretary of state can rule that no UK law can be brought to bear.

The act had been drafted as a consequence of a series of European court judgments in the 1980s that forced Britain's ultra-secretive intelligence agencies to emerge into the daylight of the public domain.

How secret renditions shed light on MI6's licence to kill and torture (via Warren Ellis)


    1. Aren’t spies supposed to dissemble? She isn’t going to appear on the Reith lectures (the clue is in the title) and dis the British establishment, is she? Am I being cynical/sarcastic? Yes.

  1. Words are failing me right now.

    Human lives are not meant to be bargaining chips for the abandoning of a WMD program, or to gain access to more oil and gas rights for corporations.

    To secretly send people to be tortured, for corporate profits… thats what they did.
    And the people “responsible”?  We ticked a box on a form, they are untouchable.

    Screw the rules, screw civil society, this Government has shattered any pretense of giving a rats ass about anyone but the almighty corporation.
    Secret rules, secret laws, secret deals… and they will just make it all go away.

    I am disgusted by the world I find myself trapped in, I thought the sickening corruption surrounding us at least had some limits.  I was mistaken.

    1. Laws are meaningless irrelevancies fucking with our imaginative capacities. Ethically/morally/philosophically nothing essentially is impossible if you do nothing to disturb anyone’s sense of self. This is a long stretch for the combination of puritanism plus enlightenment ‘philosophy’ which fetishizes individuality to the exclusion of self and which looks at the Greeks through Christian/Christianised (believing) eyes.

    2. “We ticked a box on a form, they are untouchable”

      This, referring to the spies who did the physical dirty work.  The main culprits here are not the spies, but the people who control the spies.  “If only we could get rid of those particular spies, things would be peachy” ignores that the the same asshole who gave those spies their orders would willingly give others the same order.  If that goes up to the Prime Minister, so be it.

      1. “We ticked a box on a form, they are untouchable”

        To the spies who will use the awesome defense of “just following orders”.

        To the ballot to elected these craven bastards.

        To the people they appointed to run things and do whats “best” for the country (but put corporations first).

        There were many boxes ticked along the way, I dislike the spies involved but there is more than enough anger to work its way up the food chain.  They didn’t act in a vacuum and I did not mean to imply that.  Regrettably when I said words failed me I was serious, it took me several minutes to not just type a string of expletives and half formed words as I searched for the right way to call these bastards out.  But I’m feeling much better now….

        I am disgusted there is a box they can tick to allow them to do illegal things in other countries and cover them from prosecution, while they are working on extraditing someone to another country to faces charges of having broken their laws while never having set foot there. 
        Run a link site, get arrested and extradited.
        Send people seeking political asylum back to a country that they fled, awesome job if you can get some oil and gas rights.

  2. Heh. Good luck with defending the proportionality of section 7 at Strasbourg when it was pretty much designed to neuter the court. Strasbourg, to be utterly clear, is where this is heading if domestic law doesn’t sort this out first.

    Handily, the HRA1998 offers quite the getout clause for the domestic courts, and the argument that it supercedes the  it is extremely robust; indeed the following two clauses mean that s.7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 is almost certainly DOA.

    Human Rights Act 1998:

    -S. 6(1-2) makes it unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with convention rights:

    “(1)It is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.

    (2)Subsection (1) does not apply to an act if—
    (a)as the result of one or more provisions of primary legislation, the authority could not have acted differently; or
    (b)in the case of one or more provisions of, or made under, primary legislation which cannot be read or given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights, the authority was acting so as to give effect to or enforce those provisions.”- S. 7(1) allows a person who claims that a public authority has acted unlawfully, to bring proceedings against the authority. 

    “(1)A person who claims that a public authority has acted (or proposes to act) in a way which is made unlawful by section 6(1) may— (a)bring proceedings against the authority under this Act in the appropriate court or tribunal, or (b)rely on the Convention right or rights concerned in any legal proceedings,but only if he is (or would be) a victim of the unlawful act.”

    In the light of these two clauses it seems dubious in the extreme to claim that a blanket ban on court action in a 1994 act has not been superseded.

    I am not your lawyer and this is not legal advice, etc.

    1.  It’s safer to assume that the “good guys” are bad guys and that the “bad guys” are bad guys.

  3. I think the worst thing about this is that it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest

    I’m increasingly coming to despise the country i was born in :(

    I know it’s not much, but i apologize to the rest of the world for my country’s increasingly evil actions…

    1.  As someone who may or may not be an American I say…
      Welcome to the club of feeling the need to apologize for one’s leaders.

      1. Excuse me, but I think you’ll find that Great Britain was leading the world in perpetrating international atrocity long before your upstart republic was born.

        Golly, but I’m proud to be British. 

        1.  Anyone have this mental image of 2 hooligans hanging out trying to out do each other as to who can be the bigger bad ass?

    2. I won’t apologize for something these ‘people’ did. I didn’t vote them into office and I’m growing increasingly disallusioned with the voting process (However it is the only game in town so do please vote for people you ACTUALLY support in.)

      Sometimes I wish countries were people just so i could smack america. I’m tired of feeling like the world is justified in loking down it’s nose at me.tead of the ‘less evil’ person.)

      1.  “I didn’t vote them into office”

        Neither did I

        but the voting ‘choice’ where i live consists of:
        1a. neo-liberal tories
        1b. neo-liberal labour (ever so slightly less worse than 1a)
        2. your vote is wasted/ignored by FPTP

        The sooner the UK admits the voting system is a mere veneer/illusion of democracy over the neoliberal cross-party consensus the better the country will be.

        1.  We really should have the option of none of the above.

          Make them keep burning their wealth trying to win the popularity contest.  The bonus is while they keep running, they can’t make any more stupid laws.

    1. Sooner than that.  There are already questions about what went on in the negotiations with Libya at the time – particularly over the return of the Lockerbie Bomber. 

      To point fingers:  The Labour party was in power at the time.  The Secretary of  State when this happened (2004) would have been Jack Straw (currently Shadow Deputy Prime Minister) and the PM was Tony Blair.

      1. I would be remarkably surprised — although pleased — to find that the slightest drop of shit rained down on anyone for this, at least in public. 

        Politicians in our country have a long history of getting away with this sort of stuff.  Normally they hide behind the official secrets act, but when that doesn’t work, as in this case, for some reason it never seems to matter. 

        If a prime minister  can get away with misleading his entire parliament  over entry into a war, then I’m pretty sure that the torture of a few “nobodies” — not even UK citizens — can be swept under the carpet. 

        1. Well it is all in the open now.   And I wouldn’t be surprised if some shit did rain down in this case.

          It doesn’t look like anything actually illegal happened so no one is going to prison.  But Jack Straw is still in a significant political position, from which he could be forced to resign in disgrace.

          Most significantly there is grounds for a coalition on this one.  Pretty much everyone is on board with the Libyan rebels = cool, Gaddaffi = dick analysis.  Plenty of dirty backroom deals were done to get Gaddaffi back in the respectable peoples club, of which many on the right are also angry about.  It could well be a perfect storm.
          We’re quite good as a nation at forcing people to resign in disgrace.

  4. Question: the secretary of state has the power to exonerate the MI6 spies who did this. But who exonerates the secretary of state? Because he was clearly complicit in an illegal action, and should be brought to justice. I don’t think the same get-out clause applies for him, and he wasn’t “just following orders”.

    More interesting: it may not be possible to bring criminal charges, but it may very well be possible to bring a civil lawsuit.  The thought of Jack Straw losing his house over the Blair government’s civil liberties violations just fills me with a warm glow.

    1. Exactly; you can’t remove accountability from the picture entirely.  If the secretary of state wishes to exonerate them, then fine, but that means the secretary of state has to take the blame.

      If western governments were actually accountable for their actions we’d probably be living in a much better world.

      1. you can’t remove accountability from the picture entirely

        Maybe not, but it doesn’t seem to stop them from trying. Any bets on whether anything will happen to such an exalted personage?

        1. Here’s something to test the UK’s libel laws…

          Jack Straw: complicit in the abduction and murder of a pregnant woman? You decide. #JackStrawMurdersBabies

    2. Oh, but nowhere near the thought of Cherie Blair/Booth losing the Mayfair House. 20000 a month for the mortgage alone, I believe.

  5. “provided that the secretary of state signs off on them”

    So I guess that means the former secretary of state is responsible, so they can sue him?

  6. It’s refreshing to see that the US isn’t the only govt ignoring international law and assuming sovereignty over the world.

    Oh good: “AND THEIR FAMILIES.”

  7. The culmination of events of the past few years have made it clear western democracies are no more moral or responsible to its people than your average dictatorship. Democracies are just better at fooling the people into compliance.

    1. Having never been in a totalitarian nation I wouldn’t have first hand account of this.

      However getting to badmouth the government without ending up in prison is pretty sweet innit?

      1. You have completely missed the point.  Western democracies like to play the morality and justice card over and over again. The common phrase “It would never happen here” gets repeated often. But in reality, western democracies are more than happy to kick their high morals aside when it suits them.

      2. However getting to badmouth the government without ending up in prison is pretty sweet innit?

        Privilege is pretty sweet for the person who doesn’t get tortured, innit? FTFY

          1. Fixed It For You.

            Now then. I’m not saying any of this is good. I don’t like the fact governments (or anyone else for that matter) can just wave a hand and go ‘oh hey we did all this bad stuff but you can’t hold us accountable.’I’m just pointing out that, at least til something like ACTA gets passed and we end up having the internet taken away from us it’s free collecting of information that’s letting us know that they’re doing these things and spread it around.

            I”m simply pointing out that it’s great we CAN without having people bust doors down and drag us away to god knows where. Maybe we can do something about the system at large that OK’ed trading people’s lives for… what trade agreements? Assurances oil would flow? Things that arn’t worth even one person’s life?

            Take a look around. All of us in democratic countries.It’s our faults that our governments are as bad as they are. Sure there’s reasons things are hard if not impossible to get the things we’re supposed to have. However Anyone that’s voted for someone simply because of who they oppose rather than what their platform is. You’re to blame. Anyone who’s bought into campaign promises without checking a politician’s history to see how those promises line up with past reality? You’re at fault.

            Blame me for the wrong my country’s done. I reached voting age in time for the 2000 elections. It’s my fault we have a financial meltdown because, me not doing the research, picked people purely on campaign stumping rather than what they’re actually like and lo and behold. They made selfish decisions that ended up sinking the world.

            I don’t mean this to be petty, or sarcastic, or whatever. We’re all to blame for the mess we’re in. Let’s stop screaming at how wrong it is and see if we can find a way out of it.

  8.  Jack Straw, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister? Are you sure you’re talking about a politician and not a Batman villain with a name and title like that?

  9. The UK happily engages in crimes against humanity today. Just look at (and never forget) the case of Diego Garcia where an entire people have been forcibly cleared from their homeland.

    OF COURSE the UK (and the USA, et al) do evil shit like this. They’ve done this sort of thing forever and continue to this day, all whilst peddling a different image of themselves to their citizens (against crime, for the rule of law, for a country full of ‘responsible citizens’ and ‘hard workers’).

    One rule for us and none for them. That’s the way they like it – after all, they’re the ones sitting on top of the shit pile – they’ve ‘earned’ the freedom to ignore the rules they subject the rest of us to.

  10. As an American who travels, I know most intelligent people in the world are able to differentiate between an American citizen, US foreign policy, and America as country.   Conversely, I think many intelligent Americans are able to differentiate between the citizens of another country and the country’s foreign policy.

    This talk of despising “America” or wanting to slap “America” is totally misguided.   Worse, it is reactionary.

    In fact, it has much in common with the simplistic propaganda that a GOVERNMENT feeds its citizens to drum up support for its foreign policy action against other countries–military or otherwise.

    1.  If the people legitimate the system, should they not be held proportionately responsible for how that system functions?

      1. I’m quite vocal about my opposition to the system, and I never vote for the “lesser evil” just to participate (as if by choosing Coke over Pepsi will prove to myself and others that democracy works.)

        Guess I don’t know exactly what people in particular you’d like to hold proportionately responsible.  Is American Glen Greenwald just as culpable as American Bill O’Reilly?    How should we bring these “proportionately responsible” people to justice?  Maybe we could bomb them.

        My point is…it’s those who are in power that have a vested, personal interest in protecting the system and seeing that it continues to function.  Capitalism’s problems are fundamental and necessary to its survival–starting with treating labor as a commodity and producing for profit only, not for the benefit of society.

        The hypocrisy and misery the US government is responsible for is despicable, but I’m not going to take one shred of credit for it.

        1. The hypocrisy and misery the US government is responsible for is despicable, but I’m not going to take one shred of credit for it

          Neither would I hold you responsible for it–to any degree–if what you write about yourself is true. But your post suggests that you’re aware of the fact that many Americans do legitimate their odious system, not the least by voting for the lesser of two evils. Those are the people about whom I asked, whether they should be held proportionately responsible. Certainly they should not be held as responsible as, say, members of the Supreme Court. But neither are they blameless.

          1. I agree with you totally.

            I think there’ll always be a sizable part of any society that’s uninterested in the workings of their system.  Not gonna call them the “lumpenproletariat” (though one certainly could) I just mean there’s nothing in the American mind that makes them intrinsically any different from the citizens of any other country.

            Again, I agree with you (by inference) in recognizing a “generalized mindset” of the citizens as a whole, and that these too vary from country to country.  Examining these differences would be interesting, but I bet they’d come down to real politic.

            It seems the most extreme and outrageous form of political heresy is suggesting there’s something fundamentally wrong with the system; suggesting it couldn’t simply be fixed by one reform or another.  That is the line that’s delivered over and over, and most people accept this as gospel. 

            Back to blame. Blame a large portion on the populace for being manipulated? Maybe so, hell I believe people should assume some degree of personal responsibility.

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