EMAIL SIGN UP!
Most Popular This Week
Today's Top News
Charity Sues Government for Details of Afghanistan Rendition Case
Human rights group launches legal bid to force government to reveal identities of two men detained by British troops in Iraq
The men, whose identities are uncertain, were arrested by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and transferred to Bagram airbase, a US detention facility in Afghanistan, where they are still being held. US officials have reportedly said the men have ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organisation with links to al-Qaida, and that they are being treated humanely.
Lawyers for Reprieve said the men had not been charged with any offence, and a periodic review of their status by the US military has been characterised by a US federal judge as falling "well short of what the supreme court found inadequate at Guantánamo".
The charity is suing the Ministry of Defence in an attempt to have their identities and details about their welfare disclosed.
Reprieve said today it had tentatively identified the prisoners as Salah el Din and Saifullah, both from Pakistan. There are concerns about the men's welfare, and Din is alleged to have suffered serious mental problems as a result of mistreatment in custody.
"Unfortunately, this information is insufficient to identify the men properly, and track down their families in order to secure authorisation to bring litigation on their behalf," Reprieve said. "We are now suing the government to force them to reveal the necessary information."
In a letter to the defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, the law firm acting on behalf of Reprieve, Leigh Day, said: "There can be no doubt that the two individuals handed to the US by the UK, and subsequently transported to Afghanistan, may have suffered illegal ill-treatment of some sort, and potentially very serious torture. Indeed they may still be suffering such treatment."
The MoD has yet to respond in detail to the action, but said in a statement today that Reprieve's allegations about the men's welfare were "unsubstantiated". In February, John Hutton, then defence secretary, told parliament his department had unintentionally given "inaccurate information" about the men to the Commons.
He added that US officials said the men were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, and were moved to Afghanistan for interrogation because there was a lack of relevant linguists in Iraq.
"It is clear to me that the transfer to Afghanistan of these two individuals should have been questioned at the time," Hutton said. "We have discussed the issues surrounding this case with the US government. They have reassured us about their treatment but confirmed that, as the individuals continue to represent significant security concerns, it is neither possible nor desirable to transfer them to either their country of detention or their country of origin."
Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, said: "We have an urgent moral, as well as legal, duty to repair the damage his rendition has caused."Here, the government admits its involvement in the crime of rendition, says it apologises, but then does nothing to reunite the victims with their legal rights. Imagine, if you will, that a criminal was to apologise for taking part in a kidnap, but then refused to name his victims, or to help secure their freedom. We would hardly accept the apology as being sincere."
An MoD spokesman said: "We are in receipt of a letter from Leigh Day and Co solicitors regarding two detainees being held in US detention facilities in Afghanistan. We are in the process of considering the legal points they have made and will respond in due course.
"These individuals are in the custody of the US government. We have no reason to believe that Reprieve's unsubstantiated allegations about their welfare are accurate. The US has assured us the detainees are held in a humane, safe and secure environment within the detention facility, which meets international standards for the care and custody of detained persons. The International Committee of the Red Cross has had access to these detainees."