High Court hearing on UK rendition and complicity in torture case begins

By agency reporter
September 24, 2014

A hearing begins today (24 September) at the High Court in the case of a man kidnapped and tortured by British troops in Iraq, before being rendered to secret detention and held for over a decade without charge or trial.

Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani citizen, was captured by British forces in Iraq in 2004. Mr Rahmatullah has told his lawyers at the legal charity Reprieve that UK soldiers dragged him across the ground behind a moving vehicle, waterboarded and beat him until he repeatedly lost consciousness, and forced him to lie in a coffin-like chamber for a prolonged period. Mr Rahmatullah was then handed over to US forces who detained him in Abu Ghraib before rendering him to Bagram Airbase for ten years without charge, trial, or access to a lawyer. He was released in June this year.

After years of government denials that the UK had been involved in any rendition operations, Mr Rahmatullah’s capture by British forces was finally revealed to Parliament in February 2009 by the then-Secretary of State for Defence, John Hutton. After legal action was brought on Mr Rahmatullah’s behalf, the UK government admitted that British officials were aware of a US intention to transfer Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan at the time, yet did nothing to prevent it. In 2012, the UK Supreme Court suggested that his rendition may have amounted to a war crime, stating:

“The, presumably forcible, transfer of Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan is, at least prima facie, a breach of article 49 [of the fourth Geneva Convention]. On that account alone, his continued detention post-transfer is unlawful.”

Mr Rahmatuallah, represented by Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day, is now asking the UK government to investigate his treatment at the hands of British forces. He is also seeking a determination from the Court that the UK’s actions were unlawful.

Kat Craig, Legal Director for Reprieve, said: “Yunus Rahmatullah was kidnapped and subjected to horrific torture by the British, who then handed him over to the US for yet more torture and detention. It is an unimaginable ordeal that he has been put through. The UK government must fully investigate their role in this and be held accountable for what they put Mr Rahmatullah through.”

[Ekk/4]

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