Human Rights Watch has released a new report claiming that CIA agents arrested and tortured opponents of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi before turning suspects over to his regime. The group, which earlier this year published a major investigation of Syrian torture centers, says that interviews with jailed opponents and recently discovered emails reveal a pattern of cooperation between Libya and intelligence services in the United States and Great Britain during the latter half of the Bush Administration. HRW claims that documents found in Libya following Gaddafi's overthrow last year, combined with interviews with actual detainees, reveal evidence that agents waterboarded Libyan militants captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Gaddafi struck a deal with the western nations by agreeing to give up its nuclear weapons program. In exchange, the CIA and MI-6 cooperated with Libyan intelligence agents on terrorism investigations that sometimes involved Islamic militants fighting against Qaddafi's government. Many of those same militants would later lead the revolt against Qaddafi that ended with his death in 2011.
The report alleges at least 14 cases of alleged waterboarding of detainees, based in part on testimony from the detainees themselves. The U.S. has previously only admitted to three cases of waterboarding terrorism suspects, none of them Libyan, a claim that Human Rights Watch now says is in dispute. While not directly addressing the specific allegations of torture, both the British and American governments admit that they did work with the Libya government on counter-terrorism cases, but only with the goal of stopping groups like al-Qaeda.
One of the men who was allegedly tortured, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, ran a militant training camp in Afghanistan and had claimed under interrogation that there were ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion. He later recanted those claims. His family also says he did run a military camp, but was not affiliated with al-Qaeda and only wanted to overthrow Qaddafi. Another former suspect, Khalid al-Sharif, says he was tortured in a CIA prison before being turned over to Qaddafi in 2005. He became a key figure in the 2011 revolt and now runs the Libyan National Guard.
Just last week, Attorney General Eric Holder closed a three-year investigation in torture by the U.S. government without bring any criminal charger against anyone.