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UK forces accused of illegally detaining Afghans at Camp Bastion

London-based Public Interest Lawyers [firm website] on Wednesday accused the UK military of holding at least eight men without charge at the UK temporary holding facility in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Their clients have allegedly been held for over eight months without charge and without access to lawyers in what could be a breach of international law. Applications for habeas corpus were issued on behalf of two of the men in April, and the military has ordered a hearing in July. UK Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond [official website] insisted that the holdings are in compliance with international law and that there are regular inspections by the International Committee of the Red Cross [official website]. He explained [BBC report] that standard military procedures, which required the detainees to be released to Afghan forces after 96 hours, were changed in November due to suspicions about the use of torture on prisoners by the Afghan forces. According to the Ministry of Defense [official website], the detainees are being held in Camp Bastion until a safe path through the Afghan system could be assured.

Last year an Afghan detainee who was handed over to authorities in Afghanistan by UK forces won permission to challenge the legality of the transfer [JURIST report] in a UK court. 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 Defense spokesperson claimed that UK does not transfer detainees to facilities where there is a risk of torture. In 2010 a UK court ruled that restrictions [JURIST report] must be placed on whether British soldiers in Afghanistan may transfer detainees to Afghan-run detention facilities.

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