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British Government Reported to Police After Iraqi Detainee Remains in Jail

The British Government has been reported to the police over war crimes in Iraq, following its failure to secure the release of a prisoner rendered to Afghanistan and held without charge or trial for eight years.

20 February 2012

The British Government has been reported to the police over war crimes in Iraq, following its failure to secure the release of a prisoner rendered to Afghanistan and held without charge or trial for eight years.

Yunus Rahmatullah was detained by UK forces in Iraq in 2004 and subsequently ‘rendered’ to the notorious US-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan. Despite being cleared for release by the US military, he remains unlawfully imprisoned in Bagram to this day. Under an agreement signed between the two allies and intended to insulate Britain from complicity in US war crimes, the UK retained the right to require his transfer back to their custody at any time.

Leigh Day & Co successfully argued last year in the Court of Appeal for a habeas corpus order, the British Government duly ‘requested’ the return of Mr Rahmatullah.

But appeal judges have now accepted the Government have done all they can to further the order for release after being told that American authorities were not going to “play ball" and British ministers had "reached the end of the road".

Legal action charity Reprieve claim that this decision lays the UK Government open to charges over the torture, rendition and detention of Mr Rahmatullah: which they say is an ongoing war crime. They have now submitted a formal complaint to London’s Metropolitan Police who are now reportedly beginning investigations.

Mr Rahmatullah, a Pakistani national, is reported to be in ‘catastrophic physical shape’, after being badly abused and held without charge or trial, largely incommunicado, for nearly eight years. He only recently made contact with his family, who remain desperately concerned about his safety. He remains in Bagram prison, beyond the rule of law, despite having been cleared for release even by the US military’s own procedures.

Jamie Baegent from Leigh Day & Co, who represents Mr Rahmatullah said:

“This really is miring the UK Government is a stream of complicity in what we claim is the unlawful detention of a man who is in a pitiful state in one of the worst prisons in the world.”

Reprieve’s Executive Director, Clare Algar said: “Sadly, the UK has squandered this opportunity to right the wrongs of the past. But this is far from over. The British Government’s failure to persuade its supposedly closest ally to honour agreements signed between the two countries has left it open to war crimes charges. The Government now faces yet another investigation over its involvement in torture and rendition.

Yunus Rahmatullah's cousin Munir Ahmed said: “After eight years of misery, the British court finally gave us some hope when they tried to free Yunus. So we are bitterly disappointed that he is still in Bagram. We still believe the British Government can get Yunus back home to his family, and we desperately hope they keep trying to help us. I would just like the British to say to the US: Yunus is cleared for release, so why can’t he go home?”

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