[JURIST] Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai [official website] demanded Saturday that all prisoners of war held by UK forces at Bagram Airfield [official website] be released into Afghan custody. The estimated number of detainees is more than 80. Karzai’s spokesperson, Aimal Faizi, confirmed [press release] that Karzai instructed National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta [Afghanistan Online profile] to ask the British Embassy in Kabul to hand over the prisoners by June 22. The British embassy responded that while it supports the transfer of custody, it needs assurances that doing so would not result in a violation of British laws against torture. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has also cautioned [press release] against the transfer of detainees. Faizi responded that, “Continuing the detention of Afghan nationals by the British forces will be a violation of our national sovereignty and our country’s laws.”
London-based Public Interest Lawyers [firm website] last month accused [JURIST report] the UK military of holding at least eight men without charge at the UK temporary holding facility in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. Their clients were allegedly 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 ordered a hearing set in July. According to the UK 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.