UK Government has six days to avoid war crimes investigation

February 14, 2012

The British Government could face investigation over war crimescommitted in the rendition of prisoners during the Iraq war, unless itcan persuade the US to honour agreements governing detainee transferswithin the week.A British court last year ordered the UK Government to secure therelease of Yunus Rahmatullah, who was captured by British forces inIraq in 2004 and subsequently ‘rendered’ to a US prison in Afghanistan.Although he is currently in a US-run prison – where he has been heldwithout charge or trial for nearly eight years – the UK retains controlof him under an agreement signed between the two countries at the timeof the Iraq invasion.The  UK Government has been ordered to secure his release by Monday 20February because his rendition and detention are and were illegal underthe Geneva Conventions, and because the US promised in 2003 to send allUK-seized prisoners back to the UK upon request.If the Ministry of Defence fails to secure the return of YunusRahmatullah, as a result of the US breaking its obligation to keep itspromise and hand him over, they will be left open to war crimes charges– as the Geneva Conventions are part of British criminal law, andfailure by the UK to remedy the breach caused by his transfer to Bagramprison in Afghanistan may make the UK criminally complicit.Any refusal by the US to release Mr Rahmatullah will also raisequestions over how far they can be trusted in future to honouragreements signed between the two allies.Reprieve’s Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “It is now nearly eightyears since Yunus Rahmatullah was seized by the British, only todisappear God knows where and turn up in Bagram months later.  This wasa war crime, and the UK has a duty to remedy the breach. As yet we justdon’t yet know what the UK government have done to try to retrievetheir prisoner.  What we do know is that it will be disastrous for boththe US and the UK if Britain fails. The US, having shown its word to beworthless, will be an unfit partner for any future Memorandum ofUnderstanding. Here in Britain, UK officials should fully expect tohave to answer for their individual roles in a grave breach of theGeneva Conventions.”ENDS

Notes to editors

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