Yasmin Sidana on the defection to the UK of one of Gaddafi’s former cronies

Libya's 'Torturer-in-Chief'

With the pressure ever mounting in Libya under Gaddafi’s regime, Libyan former Foreign Minister, Moussa Koussa – recently defected – has been offered asylum in the UK in return for what is believed to be his help in toppling Gaddafi’s dictatorship. Prime Minister David Cameron has called this decision to flee a ‘serious blow to Gaddafi’s authority’, and MI6 are now encouraging other key members of the regime to step down, including the head of external intelligence, Abu Zayd Dorba, Mohamed al-Zwai, Secretary-General of the People’s Congress, and a former Prime Minister, Abdul Ati al-Obeidi. However, not just asylum but also the promise of special protection for the former henchman has provoked anger in the public, who believe he should be put on trial for his alleged crimes.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon has recently likened Koussa’s defection to that of Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, 70 years ago during the Second World War. Although 2011’s Middle Eastern uprisings cannot be compared to the horror and devastation of World War II, it nonetheless inspires deep concern and a political dilemma: are we right in demanding Moussa Koussa to be investigated and prosecuted for his role in the regime’s crimes, or should he be protected from it?

The facts are that Koussa filled the role of ‘right hand man’ and ‘Torturer-in-Chief’ to Gaddafi before fleeing to the UK. He has been responsible for many of the regimes atrocities up to the present day, including arming the IRA and being party to the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Rudolf Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trials after being found guilty of Crimes Against Peace and Conspiracy to Commit Crimes. Parrallel to this, David Cameron has stated that, despite being offered protection, Moussa Koussa will not be immune from prosecution should evidence arise – opening the possibility of a trial either in Britain or before the International Criminal Court. Mike O’Brien, a former Labour Foreign Office Minister, commented that, ‘Although people have to be brought to justice, it is sometimes difficult to find the evidence.’ This augments the prospect of Koussa living in the UK as a free man.

Yet is it simply a question of finding the evidence? Behind closed doors, there is much more to the Foreign Minister’s defection than we may ever come to understand. Considering his previous position, he could help provide many of the missing facts about the Lockerbie bombings and Gaddafi’s military machine. Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, confirmed that the UK government had been in ‘regular contact’ with Koussa before his decision to abscond, but no one knows for how long or for what reason. Similarly, it’s certain that the British Secret Service were fully involved in the Hess flight, and there is the possibility that they did not merely encourage him to the UK but in fact invited him – MI6’s only concern was to end the war with Germany.

Could Koussa’s defection have been orchestrated to destroy Gaddafi’s regime and in turn provoke other Middle Eastern dictatorships to crumble? There is speculation that Moussa Koussa may even be an agent of the West, after persuading Gaddafi to give up his weapons of mass destruction, and with this in mind, would it really be wise for the public to push for his prosecution?

Human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC has said that Koussa’s claim for asylum would be based on his persecution from both Gaddafi’s regime and the opposition groups who still view him as ‘Torturer-in-Chief’. Koussa is currently being questioned by MI6 officers and diplomats in a safe house at a secret location in the Home Counties. Whatever the outcome, Moussa Koussa’s defection is a significant moment in the affairs of the Middle East, and ministers hope that Gaddafi will fall in rather less time than the four year struggle for Hitler’s end that succeeded the flight of Rudolf Hess.


Yasmin Sidana