28 Jun 2013

UK begins transfer of detainees to Afghan custody

Ten UK-captured detainees are transferred to Afghan custody after up to 14 months at Camp Bastion, with more to follow in the coming days, after a High Court ruling.

The detainees were on a plane from Camp Bastion at 7:30pm on Thursday evening to a detention facility under control of the Afghan justice system in the Parwan province, the Ministry of Defence told Channel 4 News.

The British Embassy in Kabul said that the transfer of most of the remaining 82 detainees would follow once they have given their consent and confirm they do not want legal representation.

Seven Afghans being represented by human rights lawyers are due to remain in a British detention centre until an upcoming judicial review in July which will test the UK government’s right to hold the detainees.

However two detainees who were also part of the case against the UK government dropped their legal challenge on Thursday and will be immediately transferred to an Afghan facility. The lawyer representing the Ministry of Defence told the court that at least one other detainee wanted to drop charges and that the case appears to be “on the verge of disappearing”.

‘Safe to transfer’

In a statement, the British Embassy in Kabul said: “The UK government recognises Afghanistan as a sovereign country and it has always been the UK’s intention to transfer UK captured detainees as quickly as is legally possible to the Afghan authorities.

“We are confident that it is safe to transfer detainees to the Afghan national detention facility in Parwan where detainees will not face a real risk of torture or serious mistreatment.”

The government was last month forced to defend the detention of 92 Afghans at Camp Bastion, after lawyers for nine of the men said that the detention without charge could be illegal.

Earlier in June, the High Court had imposed an injunction to prevent any of the detainees being handed over following fears that they might suffer serious ill treatment in Afghan custody. But a judge on Thursday ruled that those who consented to their transfer, could be released.

Tried under Afghan law

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said that he was “very pleased” with the ruling and said that terms have been agreed with the Afghan administration.

But added: “Unfortunately, the injunction remains in place for some detainees who are still represented by human rights lawyers.”

“We believe that all of these suspected criminals – many linked to the killing of British troops and Afghan civilians or of facilitating, planting or being involved with explosive devices – should be transferred without further delay to have their cases heard according to Afghan law,” he said.

Mr Hammond previously told Channel 4 News that he halted their transfer to Afghan custody last year because he was worried about “abuse” at one Afghan facility.