HK role in Libyan affair still unclear

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2012, 12:00am


We are no closer to answers to troubling questions about the deportation of a suspected Libyan terrorist and his family who faced torture and persecution in their homeland. Lawyers suing the Hong Kong and British governments over the alleged extraordinary rendition of Sami al-Saadi say it could take years to unravel the details of what happened after he arrived in the city from Guangdong on a false passport with his wife and four children, who were all aged under 13, in 2004. Meanwhile, the government has refused to discuss the case, key flight records have apparently been routinely destroyed, and the British government has said it will 'take seriously' newspaper revelations about the involvement of British spies.

The lawyers are in for the long haul. But some of our lawmakers are right to press for answers now, given that our government revealed its own concerns at the time by seeking assurances that Saadi and his family would be treated humanely, in accordance with the city's obligations under an international treaty against torture. Instead he suffered years of torture before Libyan rebels freed him from jail.

The questions have been raised in documents found in the office of Libya's intelligence chief after Muammar Gaddafi's regime was overthrown. They say Saadi fled Britain for China in 2003 after London established closer ties with Tripoli, and claims to have been 'tricked' by secret agents to come to Hong Kong in 2004 en route to seeking safe haven in Norway. The Saadis were detained for two weeks in Hong Kong, according to the documents, while the US arranged for a plane to fly them out. One question is whether Hong Kong received the assurances it sought. It is far from clear that established procedures for deportations and extraditions were followed. These are serious issues involving the city's reputation and the rule of law. The government should give a full account of Hong Kong's role.