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Transfers of Iraqi detainees to US forces

Amongst the many hundreds of claims brought by Leigh Day on behalf of Iraqi civilians, there is a group of claims brought by individuals who were detained by British forces in Iraq, and then transferred into the custody of the armed forces of the United States.

In order to enable the Court to consider the issues arising out of these transfers, three test cases were identified in 2015. 

Two of the test cases concerned men who were captured in separate operations in Basra in June and July 2008. The men were captured by British Forces, accompanied by a US “custodial officer”. The Iraqis alleged assaults by British forces during and after capture, before being transferred to Camp Harper – apparently a “UK-administered” US facility within the British run Basra Contingency Operating Base - from where they were escorted by plane to Baghdad International Airport and handed over to US forces. The men were subsequently detained and interrogated at Camps Balad and Cropper.

The men alleged that they were then subjected to abuse and mistreatment by US forces including hooding, excessive sensory and sleep deprivation, loud noise, solitary confinement, sexual and physical assaults by male and female US officers. The men were eventually released from US custody without charge.

Under the Human Rights Act 1998, the Ministry of Defence would be liable for the actions of US personnel if it could be shown that the UK Government knew or ought to have known that the civilians would be subjected to unlawful detention, inhuman and degrading treatment by US forces. The men also alleged that the Ministry of Defence was “jointly liable” for the actions of US forces under Iraqi law. Preliminary issue judgment

The test cases were subject to a Closed Material Procedure (CMP) following a successful application in March 2017 by the Ministry of Defence for a declaration under section 6 of the Justice and Security Act 2013 (JSA) to be able to withhold “sensitive material” which would be “damaging to the interests of national security”.  At a further hearing on 19 and 20 June 2018, Mr Justice Males heard the Ministry of Defence’s application under s8 JSA for permission not to disclose certain sensitive material to the Claimants. 

The test cases were listed for trial over five weeks from 19 November 2018. However, following a successful application for disclosure by Leigh Day on behalf of the Claimants, the judge (Mr Justice Turner) ordered that the trial be vacated.

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