A Court of Appeal judge yesterday (23 July) ordered a hearing into the unfair trial faced by an Afghan prisoner after UK forces transferred him to Afghanistan’s notorious National Directorate of Security (NDS).
British forces initially detained Serdar Mohammed, a father of two, in April 2010 and subsequently handed him to NDS agents. After this handover, NDS officials tortured Mr Mohammed repeatedly – beating him with sticks and electric cables, hooding him, hanging him by one hand and shackling him in excruciating positions for prolonged periods.
Once his torturers wrenched and twisted his testicles so hard that blood came out of his penis. He eventually signed a ‘confession’ admitting to being a member of the Taliban and was ‘tried’ on that basis. The court sat for fifteen minutes, spoke only in a language Mohammed did not understand, and did not offer him a lawyer.
For the first time, UK courts will now consider whether it is lawful to hand over Serdar Mohammed – and conflict-related detainees like him – to the NDS to face such treatment.
The Ministry of Defence suspended all UK transfers to NDS custody after Mohammed’s torture was brought to light. His fair trial claim will be considered alongside his claim against transfer to torture, which a lower court had already said might have been unlawful.
Solicitors Leigh Day & Co are seeking a full investigation into Mohammed’s case, a bar on transfers to NDS custody, and damages from the British Government. They claim the decision by UK Forces to detain Mr Mohammed and transfer him to Lashkar Gah prison breached his human rights. Mohammed is also asking that the court order the Government to take all reasonable steps to ensure, while he remains in detention, he does not face any further abuse and that the Government must assist him in overturning his conviction.
Cori Crider, Legal Director at the legal chariity Reprieve, said: “It’s quite right that the UK courts should investigate what happens to British detainees after their handover – when the answer seems to be ‘trials’ that last a quarter of an hour, in which your tortured confession is discussed in a language you don’t speak. This decision offers a ray of hope to Mr Mohammed, and to all other conflict detainees currently trapped in the Afghan court system."
Rosa Curling of Leigh Day & Co said:“It is extremely important that the UK courts properly consider whether it is lawful for the British authorities in Afghanistan to hand over detainees in their custody to the NDS. Our client’s case clearly shows that the Afghan legal system falls way below international standards. By transferring Mr Mohammed to the NDS, the UK acted in breach of its obligations under human rights law, resulting in our client suffering a flagrant denial of justice.”