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UK court permits Afghan detainee to challenge legality of transfer

An Afghan detainee who was handed over to authorities in Afghanistan by UK forces won permission on Wednesday to challenge the legality of the transfer. Before the High Court of Justice in London, Serdar Mohammed claimed that he had been transferred by British forces to a prison in Afghanistan where he was tortured by the Afghanistan intelligence service until he confessed that he was a member of the Taliban. The court felt there was "an arguable case" that required being heard out by a jury in order to determine the legality of the transfer. Observing the potential for torture, British forces have temporarily halted any future transfer of detainees to Afghanistan. Following the policy shift, a Ministry of Defence [official website] spokesperson claimed [BBC report] that UK does not transfer detainees to facilities where there is a risk of torture.

The Open Society Institute of New York and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission [advocacy websites] alleged in March that US detainees were sent to a National Directorate of Security (NDS) facility in Kandahar, which was condemned [JURIST reports] in a report [text, PDF] by the UN in October for "systematically tortur[ing]" prisoners during interrogations. Afghan officials denied the torture allegations [JURIST report], saying there was no basis for the UN's findings. Afghanistan has a history of criticism for human rights abuses. In September, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] alleged that the Afghan Local Police had been committing serious human rights violations [JURIST report], including rape, murder, abduction, forced land seizures and illegal raids. Last March, the UN released a report alleging that the Afghan government's corruption and short-term security goals were intensifying the country's poverty issues [JURIST report]. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also delivered a report earlier that month saying that the government was stalling human rights progress [JURIST report] through abuse of power and violence against women.

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