There is a great deal of good in the world but also a great deal of wickedness. News tends to concentrate on the wickedness but despite millions of words and hours being devoted to wickedness we humans never seem to understand the evil of being wicked and wickedness continues to happen. State wickedness is particularly heinous. The only reason for submitting to the laws of the state is that the state is created to protect its subjects; that is why we subject ourselves to the rule of law. So when the state embarks upon some wicked enterprise we are more shocked than we are when we learn that an individual has committed some awful crime.
In 2004 Mr Sami al Saadi and his family went to Libya into the welcoming arms of Colonel Gaddafi and his henchmen. Remember that date – 2004. Mr Al Saadi did not want to go to Libya. He knew that if he went there he would be tried in a kangaroo secret court and put in prison without cause and suffered abuse and deprivation until the Western Democracies decided that Colonel Gaddafi was a tyrant after all and helped in his downfall and death.
When Mr al Saadi and his family were rendered to the unwelcoming arms of Colonel Gaddafi Mr al Saadi was in Hong Kong, where he was forced to board a plane to Libya. When Gaddafi was overthrown evidence came to light indicating the involvement of both the United Kingdom and the United States in his rendition. Mr al Saadi sued the British government, who have now settled his claim by paying him £2.2 million. The money enables Mr al Saadi to make a new start in life and get good medical treatment for the injuries he suffered when he was tortured.
If the UK and the USA did render Mr al Saadi into the arms of Gaddafi, then they know exactly what treatment the object of rendition would suffer. Indeed high ranking members of the government in both countries had criticised Gaddafi, claiming that he and his henchman supported terrorists, shot an unarmed London policewoman and was part of an axis of evil and was implicated in bring down a civilian jet over Lockerbie. These were terrible and known facts of a state being wicked.
In 2003 Tony Blair announced that Gaddafi had been reformed. He had pledged not to create weapons of mass destruction and was now a friend of the Western democracies. Mr al Saadi was delivered into the new friend’s hands subsequently.
The British government has settled Mr al Saadi’s claim without any admission of liability. No court has found the government or the security services guilty of any crime, but there has not been a trial – not even a civil trial for the damages claimed by Mr al Saadi. He has been paid £2.2 million by a government that protests that it did nothing wrong.
Some organisations are calling for a judge led inquiry into this and other renditions to Libya and to Guantanamo. I think those calls are misconceived. The right course of action would be a criminal investigation into the roles of the intelligence services and the ministers and senior civil servants in these matters. It is a crime to torture and it is a crime to aid a abet torture and it is no defence to say that you are part of the security services or a civil servant or a minister or even the Prime Minister. There is prima facie evidence (what seems to be evidence at first sight) that a crime has been committed and the matter should be properly investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
If we do not do this then we are admitting something that may be an unpalatable truth; not only is there one law for the oppressor and another for the oppressed but governments and security services are above and beyond the reach of the law, which is a fundamental betrayal of those they govern and claim to protect.