UK court rules Afghan detainees must be protected from possible abuse
UK court rules Afghan detainees must be protected from possible abuse
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[JURIST] The UK High Court [official website] ruled [judgment text] Friday that restrictions must be placed on whether British soldiers in Afghanistan may transfer detainees to Afghan-run detention facilities. The judgment, delivered by Lord Justice Richards and Justice Cranson, examined the allegations of abuse of seven detainees at the hands of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. Citing, “independent reports … of widespread and serious ill-treatment of detainees,” the justices maintained a December 2008 moratorium on the transfer of detainees to the NDS facility in Kabul. The justices also lifted a temporary moratorium on the transfer of detainees to the NDS facility in Kandahar, giving deference to Canada’s decision to transfer prisoners to that facility. Lastly, the justices allowed transfers to an NDS facility in Lashkar Gah, provided that in addition to existing safeguards, the following also be implemented:

(i) all transfers must be made on the express basis (spelling out the requirements of the MoU and EoL) that the UK monitoring team is to be given access to each transferee on a regular basis, with the opportunity for a private interview on each occasion; (ii) each transferee must in practice be visited and interviewed in private on a regular basis; and (iii) the UK must consider the immediate suspension of further transfers if full access is denied at any point without an obviously good reason (we have in mind circumstances such as a security alert) or if a transferee makes allegations of torture or serious mistreatment by NDS staff which cannot reasonably and rapidly be dismissed as unfounded.

The court’s ruling does not prevent the transfer of detainees to Kabul from the approved facilities, though the court called the likelihood of such transfers “insufficiently large.”

In April, the High Court received documents from human rights lawyers that alleged British troops were allowing the torture of detainees [JURIST report] in Afghanistan. Concerns over detainee abuse were first brought to light in a 2007 report [JURIST report] by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website], which said that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) [official website], led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was exposing terrorism detainees to risks of torture by transferring NATO-held detainees into custody of Afghanistan authorities. AI’s report focused on actions by Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK, saying that the forces from those countries have been transferring terror detainees to the NDS, despite numerous reports of torture. The report prompted a 2008 suit, which mirrors similar allegations that Canadian military officials were complicit [JURIST news archive] in the torture of detainees that were transferred to Afghanistan officials.