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Afghan interpreters win right to appeal High Court decision

Interpreters who risked their lives serving British Forces granted appeal

High Court

10 July 2015

Lawyers for two Afghan interpreters who risked their lives working on behalf of British Forces in Afghanistan, have won the right to appeal the decision taken by the High Court that the current assistance scheme offered to them and other former interpreters is lawful.

Lawyer, Rosa Curling from the law firm Leigh Day, said that the men were owed a ‘great debt of honour’. As a result of the work they did for the British authorities in Afghanistan, many former interpreters are now facing serious and sometimes deadly threats from the Taliban who view them as infidels.

Lawyers for the two men argue that the current scheme offered to these men is unfair and unlawful as the assistance provided to former Afghan interpreters is far less favourable than the one offered to former Iraqi interpreters. They argue the men are being discriminated against and treated differently as a result of their nationality. The scheme for Afghan ‘locally employed staff’ (LES), which includes interpreters, is far less beneficial than that offered to LES in Iraq, whose lives also became endangered through assisting the British in the war in their country.

Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Irwin ruled the "territorial reach" of the Equality Act of 2010 "is not such as to include the claimants' circumstances".

The judges declared that there had been a failure to have regard to relevant equality duty matters under the 2010 Act when formulating the Afghan assistance scheme, but the court was unwilling to grant any substantive relief as a result.

Lord Justice Burnett said permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal would be granted because of the "novelty" of the issues relating to discrimination the case raised.

Rosa Curling, a lawyer in the human rights team at Leigh Day, said:

“The Court clearly recognised that The British Forces operating in Afghanistan could not have functioned without the assistance of locally employed staff, including men like our clients, former interpreters who exposed themselves to considerable personal risk to work with and protect our forces.

“The Taleban have exacted revenge against these locally employed staff, who have been subject to intimidation and attacks.

“Yet despite this, the government is refusing to put in place a scheme equitable to the Iraqi scheme to these Afghans, to whom we owe a great debt of honour.

“We are disappointed by the High Court judgment and the failure to recognise this debt but are hopeful the Court of Appeal will  reach a different decision in due course."

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