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Lawyers welcome High Court judgment on Afghan prisoner transfers

Afghan man can challenge legality of his transfer by British forces

Photo of High Court: istock

16 May 2012

Lawyers for an Afghan man have welcomed yesterday’s verdict in the High Court in London that he can challenge the legality of his transfer by British forces to the Afghan intelligence services.

In yesterday’s ruling the judge, Mr Justice Collins, ruled that the father-of-two had "an arguable case" that should go to a full judicial review hearing later in the year. The court will be asked at this hearing to decide whether it was lawful to hand over individuals held by UK forces to the Afghan authorities in circumstances where those authorities wish to prosecute them.

Mr Mohammed, after two months in detention by the British forces, was handed over to the Afghan authorities in 2010, at whose hands he was beaten with sticks and electric cables, hooded, suspended by one hand and shackled in excruciating positions for prolonged periods. On one occasion, his torturers wrenched and twisted his testicles so hard that blood came out of his penis. He eventually signed a ‘confession’ admitting to being a member of the Taliban and was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a trial lasting 15 minutes conducted in a language he didn’t understand.

At the time of his transfer, the UK authorities had put in place a number of "safeguards" which were supposed to ensure such mistreatment and abuse of detainees was prevented. However, Mr Mohammed's experience shows that these safeguards were inadequate and at the hearing yesterday, the judge said: "The concern that is raised is that events have shown that it really is not possible to avoid torture, or the real risk of torture, by the imposition of safeguards."

As a result of Mr Mohammed's claim, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has announced that all transfers of detainees from British forces to the Afghan authorities in Kabul, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah must be stopped and the court made clear yesterday that all steps must be taken to ensure that this moratorium is adhered to pending the outcome of Mr Mohammed's claim.

Richard Stein, Head of Human Rights at Leigh Day & Co said:

“This is excellent news for our client. His case raises very troubling concerns about UK complicity in torture that the court must consider as a matter of urgency. The impact of this decision coupled with the decision by the Secretary of State to halt all transfers to the Afghan authorities is highly significant and are welcomed by client."

Leigh Day & Co is also representing Mr Mohammed in a separate civil claim for damages in the UK courts over Mr Mohammed’s allegations of torture and abuse.

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Who worked on this case

Richard Stein