Ban on detainees' transfer welcomed
Human rights lawyers and activists have welcomed a Government decision to formally ban the transfer of detainees captured by UK forces in Afghanistan to the Afghan authorities following torture accusations.
New information has led Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to reimpose a moratorium on handing over suspect insurgents because of fears they would be "at real risk of serious mistreatment", the High Court in London heard.
The prohibition will remain in place pending any further update or fresh decision, Lord Justice Moses was told.
The announcement came at a preliminary hearing of a case in which Afghan farmer Serdar Mohammed, 24, from the Kajaki district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, is seeking damages for the torture he alleges he suffered at the hands of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) - the Afghan intelligence service..
His lawyers say he was arrested by UK forces in April 2010 while working in the fields of his family's farm and transferred to the NDS facility at Lashkar Gah. He alleges he was tortured into giving a false confession that he was a member of the Taliban.
The then Defence Secretary agreed to a moratorium on transfers following Mohammed's allegations. But the Ministry of Defence decided in October this year that transfers could safely start again.
Mohammed's lawyers challenged that decision and argued detainees were still at real risk. They said Asadullah Khalid, current head of the NDS, was widely known to be personally involved in the torture of detainees.
On Thursday, James Eadie QC, for the Defence Secretary, told the High Court the moratorium was being reimposed "in the light of new information" to avoid the "real risk of either serious mistreatment or a flagrant denial of justice".
Mr Eadie said he was not conceding that Mr Mohammed's legal challenge was well founded and "the critical factor" was the new information.
Richard Stein, from the human rights team at Leigh Day & Co, who is representing Mr Mohammed, said: "We welcome the secretary of state's decision, a decision which we have been arguing he had no choice but to make since the beginning of the year, that it is too risky to transfer those detained by the UK in Afghanistan to the Afghan authorities."