[Marxism] Counterpunch's only contributor on Libya in touch with reality

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 6 13:12:27 MDT 2011

Counterpunch September 6, 2011
Libya’s Beljah and Friends Don’t Forget
The Post 9/11 Torture Network

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 

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.

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