Currently held at the Afghan National Detention Facility (ANDF), Serdar Mohammed was badly abused following his detention by UK forces in April 2010.
Serdar Mohammed was born and raised in the Kajaki district of Helmand Province in Afghanistan. On the morning of April 7, 2010, he was irrigating the fields of his family’s farm when he was detained and beaten by UK forces. During the capture, soldiers let loose a dog which attacked Mohammed and bit him on the shoulder. He was then blindfolded and handcuffed and walked to a nearby village.
After the blindfold was removed, he was shown weapons and ammunition which he denied owning, stressing that people in his village could vouch for him. He was then beaten and kicked by a number of soldiers though he could not protect himself as he remained handcuffed. The soldiers then took photographs of the arms and ammunition laid out in front of Mohammed, despite his continued protests.
He was then taken to the UK Temporary Holding Facility in Camp Bastion before being transferred to another detention centre, unbeknownst to him as the UK Detention Facility at Kandahar Airfield. After three months, British authorities handed him over to the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence agency.
Mohammed was first detained at NDS Lashkar Gah, during which time he was beaten with sticks and electric cables and forced into stress positions. British personnel visited Mohammed three times, but with NDS commanders either present or within earshot, Mohammed could not reveal the full extent of his abuse. After two months, Mohammed was moved to Kabul NDS where he was subjected to even crueller and relentless torture. He was hooded and suspended by one hand, with his feet just barely touching the floor. He was also shackled in excruciating positions and left for extended periods. On one occasion, his torturers wrenched and twisted his testicles so hard that blood came out of his penis.
Throughout his detention, NDS officers continued to pressure Mohammed into confessing he was a member of the Taliban, using the fraudulent photographs taken by UK forces. Though he had continually protested his innocence, on the final day of his detention, Mohammed was forced to put his thumbprint to a document. In doing so, he was informed that had confessed to being a member of the Taliban, despite being illiterate and therefore unable to understand exactly what he had “confessed” to.
The Ministry of Defence has admitted that British personnel visited Mohammed in October 2010, at which point he reported the abuse and torture he had suffered and the forced confession he had been made to sign. The visitors photographed marks on his body consistent with his claims of torture. Admissions by the British government about their knowledge and evidence of Mohammed’s treatment raise serious questions about their complicity in the systematic practice of torture in the NDS facilities.
Mohammed was transferred to the Afghan National Detention Facility (ANDF) in November 2010 where he still remains. During his first court appearance, he was tried for being a Taliban member, despite being denied access to lawyer. Lasting only 15 minutes, the court proceedings were conducted in Dari, with no interpreter provided. Though no one spoke to him directly or asked him any questions, Mohammed is a Pashtu speaker and was therefore unable to understand the proceedings or speak for himself. One day later, Mohammed received a letter informing him that he had been sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. This was later reduced to 6 years, though Mohammed has never been provided with any justification or written confirmation.
The UKDOT (UK Detention Oversight Team) visited Mohammed repeatedly while he was in ANDF custody. However, the UKDOT, apparently satisfied with the sentence reached through sham court proceedings, ceased their visits after June 2011 “on the basis that [Mohammed] had been sentenced and the investigations into his allegations…had been completed”.
On 20 March 2012, Leigh Day & Co. filed papers at the High Court (to ask for permission) to bring judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Defence to examine Sarder’s treatment whilst in the detention of British authorities and also seeks an immediate injunction to the ongoing transfer of individuals detained by UK forces to Afghan custody. Despite judicial review of the UK’s policy of detainee transfers to clamp down on widespread allegations of torture, Mohammed’s case demonstrates the continued inefficacy of cursory visits by British authorities to monitor NDS facilities.