Friday, May 18, 2012

Taliban transfer ban threatens UK exit

May 17, 2012 by

*Some viewers might find the details in this report distressing*

British troops are being banned from transferring suspected Taliban prisoners over to the Afghan authorities because of claims of torture by local forces.

The ban on handing captives to the National Directorate of Security (NDS) could throw the transfer of security to Afghan forces -- a key component of Britain's exit strategy - into disarray.

British forces must release detainees after 96 hours, although they can extend it to 30 days with ministerial approval.

Allegations that the NDS operated an underground interrogation chamber near the British headquarters in Lashkar Gah and that "torture was entrenched" in the organisation were put before the High Court yesterday.

Mr Justice Collins gave leave for two cases to seek a judicial review into the transfer of prisoners as well as the involvement of the NDS in British interrogations. He was also made aware of the ban on prisoner transfers.

He said: "If our troops are attacked by the Taliban insurgents and there is the capture of some rather than being killed, then after 96 hours they have to go free. That is a somewhat worrying situation to say the least."

But he said an equally serious issue was that the UK could not be seen to be complicit in torture or mistreatment.

One of the cases brought before the court is that of Serdar Mohamed -- a farmer -- who says he was abused after being arrested by the British following a firefight and held for three months.

He claims he was transferred to the NDS in Lashkar Gah and then on to Kabul where he was beaten, hung by handcuffs from bars and hit by guards when he fell asleep until he gave a false confession.

His lawyers say he was later given a 16-year jail sentence in a trial that lasted just 15 minutes in a language he did not understand. His sentence has since been cut to six years and he is appealing against his conviction.

Prisoner transfers to the NDS in Kabul were banned by The Divisional Court two years ago because of claims of systematic abuse. But prisoners were still allowed to be sent to its facility in Lashkar Gah, provided they were not sent on to Kabul.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "Detention operations are an important part of our force protection measures protecting our people, our allies and partners, and the Afghan civilian population. They also directly contribute to the success of the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan and ultimately to UK national security.

"In response to a recent UK inspection there is a temporary hold on transfers while we assure ourselves that UK detainees are not at risk of serious mistreatment or torture."

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