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High Court allows full judicial review for Afghan interpreters

Permission hearing on 11 June means that Afghan interpreters can proceed with a judicial review

12 June 2014

The High Court has agreed that three former interpreters employed by the British armed forces in Afghanistan can take their High Court challenge against the Government, over the assistance they have been offered, to a full judicial review.

The judge at yesterday’s (11 June 2014)  permission hearing ruled that it is "arguable" that they have been "unlawfully treated differently" from Iraqi interpreters who also needed assistance through benefits and resettlement packages when their lives became endangered through working for the British forces in the Iraq war.

Mr Justice Mitting said the case should go to a full hearing at which the Government will have to justify any difference in treatment.

He said: "It may well succeed in doing so, but that is a matter to be pursued at the full hearing and not at this stage."

The lawyer for the three men, Rosa Curling from law firm Leigh Day, hailed the decision as a relief for all her clients one of whom, AL, remains in Afghanistan and is in constant danger of Taliban death threats.

Two of the claimants, AP and AL have had court orders put in place to protect their identities. This is required to protect them and their families from the Taliban who regard them as "infidel spies".

Rosa Curling from law firm Leigh Day, who is representing the three men, said: "We are delighted that the court has recognised the importance of these claims and a substantive hearing has now been ordered. We hope it will be listed without delay."

Ms Curling said the claim, if successful, will be of benefit to many ex-interpreters employed by the British before December 2012, most of whom are now seeking assistance from the UK to ensure they and their families can live safely outside Afghanistan.

Other cases are being put on hold pending the outcome of this test case.

In December 2012, when the Prime Minister announced the drawdown of UK forces from Afghanistan, a new scheme was introduced to aid interpreters and other local staff deemed to be engaged in "dangerous and challenging roles" with the British and under threat from the Taliban.

But the scheme was restricted to staff who had been in post on December 19, 2012 and had served more than 12 months.

With certain exceptions, staff whose employment had ended before that date, either voluntarily or for disciplinary reasons, were not eligible.

Ms Curling said: "Just because they stopped working for the British forces prior to this date does not mean the Taliban are forgetting about them.

"They are being targeted with real and serious death threats, in the same way as those who were and are employed after this date.

"The current policy adopted by the Government is discriminatory when compared with the more favourable treatment of Iraqi interpreters. It is also completely irrational," said Ms Curling.

"The Taliban aren't checking what date interpreters were employed by the British to decide whether or not to threaten them.

"Many of the former interpreters, who do not qualify under the current policy, provided great service to the UK forces in Afghanistan.

"They served with great distinction and valour before December 2012 and have been on the run ever since.

"These men and their families are being ignored by the UK Government and after the Western forces leave later this year, things will only get worse for them.

"The bravery of these men must be recognised and they must be assisted to safety without further delay."

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