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Judge: UK detention policy in Afghanistan unlawful

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LONDON (AP) — The detention policy used by U.K. forces in Afghanistan is unlawful, a judge ruled Friday, siding with an Afghan who is seeking damages from the British government after he was detained for more than three months on British bases.

Serdar Mohammed, an Afghan captured by British forces during a military operation in Helmand province in 2010, alleged that British soldiers acted unlawfully when they detained for 110 days without being charged. The claimant, who was suspected of being a Taliban commander, said during this period he didn't have the opportunity to challenge his detention.

High Court judge George Leggatt ruled that while Mohammed's arrest and initial detention had been lawful, the British government had no legal basis for detaining him beyond 96 hours. Doing so violated human rights laws and the policies of the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan, he added.

The coalition's regulations state that captured Afghan nationals should be held for a maximum of 96 hours, after which they should be handed over to Afghan authorities for prosecution or release.

The ruling could open the door to many similar claims against the British government, which has been part of the coalition since 2001.

The defense ministry said it was disappointed by the ruling, and said it would appeal the decision.

Gen. Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defense Staff, said the judgment formed part of a larger concern about situations where "legal and safety issues, conceived for civilians in peace time, are being applied in an operational context."

"Our freedom to conduct detention operations and to exploit detainees for intelligence is vital to our ability to protect the lives of innocent civilians and our own forces," he said. "Any judgment which might inhibit our ability to operate in ways which minimize casualties and protect our people is deeply worrying."

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