Prisoner B, whom Reprieve has established is Yunus Rahmatullah, was held beyond the rule of law for over ten years in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Yunus Rahmatullah, also known by his nickname 'Salehuddin', was raised in the Gulf. He travelled to Iraq in 2004 in order to find work on real estate projects after the US-led war was over. In February 2004, he was staying in a house on the outskirts of Baghdad with a number of other Pakistani citizens. UK forces raided the house he was staying in and captured him, despite Yunus having no involvement with any of the fighting in Iraq.
UK troops blindfolded Yunus, punched and kicked him, and hit him with the butt of their rifles. He was thrown in the back of a military vehicle and driven to a camp. On the way, the vehicle stopped and Yunus was taken out. UK forces again violently assaulted him. Soon after, the UK military transferred Yunus to its US counterpart. He was detained in Iraq at the now-notorious Camp Nama, where UK forces were also present, and possibly also in Abu Ghraib prison. While in Iraq he was held in isolation, often blindfolded, and subjected to a shopping-list of torture methods including: exposure to extreme temperature, whipping, having his head submerged in water, being forced to remain naked for several weeks, severe beatings and being hung from the ceiling by his wrists.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed between the UK and the US in 2003, the UK was given the power to request the return of transferred detainees. Despite knowing that Yunus was to be illegally rendered, the UK failed to do anything, and by June 2004 the US military had rendered Yunus to Bagram, also known as the ‘Guantánamo Bay of Afghanistan’.
In February 2009, after years of government denials that the UK had been involved in any rendition operations, then-Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton announced to Parliament that UK forces had captured two men in Iraq in February 2004 and handed them to US forces. These men were known only as Prisoner A and Prisoner B. In subsequent statements to Parliament, the government revealed that in March 2004, British officials had become aware of the US intention to transfer the men from Iraq to Afghanistan.
Reprieve led a complicated and expensive search for the identity of these men, covering three continents over ten months. Prisoner B was identified as Yunus Rahmatullah, Prisoner A as Amanatullah Ali.
In mid-2011, Reprieve sued the UK Government to identify Prisoner B formally as Yunus, and then sued for habeas relief in the British courts. On 14 December 2011, the Court of Appeal issued a writ ordering the Government to ask the US for Yunus' return. The UK was given one week to secure his release or else to explain why it was not possible. In the course of that week, Yunus's cousin Munir Ahmed wrote to William Hague expressing his overwhelming joy that his brother could be home again soon.
On 21 December 2011, the British Government reported that they had asked the US for Yunus to be returned. To date, however, the US has refused to comply with the UK request on the basis that it is negotiating Yunus’ repatriation with Pakistan.
In October 2012, the UK Supreme Court held that Yunus’ transfer and detention, long after hostilities in Iraq had ceased, may constitute a war crime under international law; a war crime facilitated by the UK military.
In 2013, Reprieve asked the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), a Ministry of Defence body created to investigate war crime claims in Iraq, to look into the circumstances of Yunus’ capture and transfer to US authorities. IHAT agreed to investigate whether UK forces tortured Yunus in Iraq, but it refused to address the critical question of his transfer to the US – and the UK’s abject failure to demand his return when it was clear the US were torturing him, and intended to spirit him away to Bagram.
Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day have launched judicial review proceedings relating to the failure of the government to investigate their circumstances of capture, transfer to US custody and rendition, as well as a civil claim.
Yunus remained in Bagram for ten years after his capture, without charge, trial or access to a lawyer – even though he was cleared for release in 2010. On 15 May 2014, Reprieve were notified that Yunus had been released from Bagram. His current location is unknown.
Reprieve has been told by multiple sources that as a result of his abuse in UK and US custody, Yunus is in catastrophic mental and physical shape.
Amanatullah Ali was allegedly detained alongside Yunus by UK forces in Iraq in 2004.
The father of five hails from Ghabyanwal, a remote village in Pakistan’s Punjab. Amanatullah had been working as a rice merchant since 2002.
In February 2004, Amanatullah made one of his regular business trips to Iran; the country is a major rice importer. His family did not hear from him until a year later, when they received a letter through the International Committee of the Red Cross. Through the letter, the family learned that Amanatullah, a Shi’a, had travelled from Iran to Iraq to perform ziarat, a holy Shi’a pilgrimage.
In early 2013, Reprieve and legal firm Leigh Day launched civil proceedings on behalf of Yunus against the UK Government for false imprisonment, torture and conspiracy with the US government to injure Yunus. Reprieve also included Amanatullah in Yunus’ judicial review relating to the failure of the government to investigate their circumstances of capture, transfer to US custody and rendition.
The British government admitted its complicity in crime (kidnapping, otherwise called rendition), admitted it was wrong, and appeared to apologise. Yet it did not and refused to identify the men – a crucial step if they are to be reunited with their basic human rights. Indeed, the government has apparently done nothing over the past ten years to ensure that the two men receive legal assistance.
The government bears a responsibility towards Yunus and Amanatullah. It is deeply disturbing that our country was deeply involved in this wrongdoing, but refuses to assist to put matters right.
Yunus’s mother Fatima Rahmatullah issued the following statement on April 15, 2010:
“Yunus is the youngest and closest son to my heart. I lost my other son, his only brother, in a tragic accident. Now, Yunus is my only hope in life. I see him in my dreams; I pray daily that I will see him in my waking hours again.
“Our family was shocked when we learned that the British government might have been behind Yunus’ disappearance. I am told the British government has refused even to confirm that Yunus was the person they seized six years ago. As a mother, this is a position that I struggle to understand."