The British Government could face investigation over war crimes
committed in the rendition of prisoners during the Iraq war, unless it
can persuade the US to honour agreements governing detainee transfers
within the week.
A British court last year ordered the UK Government to secure the
release of Yunus Rahmatullah, who was captured by British forces in
Iraq in 2004 and subsequently ‘rendered’ to a US prison in Afghanistan.
Although he is currently in a US-run prison – where he has been held
without charge or trial for nearly eight years – the UK retains control
of him under an agreement signed between the two countries at the time
of the Iraq invasion.
The UK Government has been ordered to secure his release by Monday 20
February because his rendition and detention are and were illegal under
the Geneva Conventions, and because the US promised in 2003 to send all
UK-seized prisoners back to the UK upon request.
If the Ministry of Defence fails to secure the return of Yunus
Rahmatullah, as a result of the US breaking its obligation to keep its
promise and hand him over, they will be left open to war crimes charges
– as the Geneva Conventions are part of British criminal law, and
failure by the UK to remedy the breach caused by his transfer to Bagram
prison in Afghanistan may make the UK criminally complicit.
Any refusal by the US to release Mr Rahmatullah will also raise
questions over how far they can be trusted in future to honour
agreements signed between the two allies.
Reprieve’s Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “It is now nearly eight
years since Yunus Rahmatullah was seized by the British, only to
disappear God knows where and turn up in Bagram months later. This was
a war crime, and the UK has a duty to remedy the breach. As yet we just
don’t yet know what the UK government have done to try to retrieve
their prisoner. What we do know is that it will be disastrous for both
the US and the UK if Britain fails. The US, having shown its word to be
worthless, will be an unfit partner for any future Memorandum of
Understanding. Here in Britain, UK officials should fully expect to
have to answer for their individual roles in a grave breach of the
Notes to editors
For further information, please go to www.reprieve.org.uk/cases/yunusrahmatullah or contact Reprieve's press office on +44 (0) 207 427 1082