Transfers ruling disappoints MoD
Published 24/06/2013 | 15:40
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has expressed his disappointment after the High Court formally blocked all current Afghan detainees captured by British forces being handed over to the Afghan authorities.
Two judges also ordered that there be no transfers of suspect insurgents to officials "of any third state".
The order was obtained by lawyers acting for some of the detainees who are involved in pending legal challenges at London's High Court.
The lawyers obtained the injunction after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) refused last Friday to continue a November 2012 undertaking not to carry out transfers, arguing that detainees themselves now wanted to go. On Monday, Mr Hammond indicated there could be further legal action.
He said: "It is disappointing that the same human rights lawyers who only recently criticised the UK Government over the length of time these suspected insurgents have been detained in Camp Bastion now want transfers to Afghan authorities to be prevented until further order by the court."
He added: "The MoD has questioned whether this injunction should apply to detainees who have specifically requested to be transferred. All the detainees have confirmed to us they want to be transferred and we very much hope the court will now look at the issue again.
"The Ministry of Defence will now consider its options but will, of course, apply to the courts before any action is taken. We believe that these suspected criminals - many linked to the killing of British troops and Afghan civilians or of facilitating, planting or being involved with explosive devices - should be transferred without further delay to have their cases heard according to Afghan law."
Earlier this month, Mr Hammond confirmed that up to 90 suspected insurgents were being held at Camp Bastion, Britain's main base in Afghanistan. Some have been held for up to 14 months. The proposed transfer destination is the Afghan National Detention Facility within Bagram airbase in Parwan province, which is monitored by US forces and where the MoD considers there is no risk of mistreatment.
But Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, and Mr Justice Cranston imposed the transfer ban at the request of lawyers acting for detainees who are challenging the legality of their detainment at a six-day hearing in London starting July 19.
The MoD says there are fears that if they are released they could endanger the lives of British troops. MoD lawyers told the judges that some of the detainees were "actively keen" to be transferred. Sir John said it was for the MoD to come back before the court if it wished to seek a variation of the ban.