Will rendition of this man land MPs in jail for war crimes?

21 December 2011 — Morning Star by Paddy McGuffin, Home Affairs Reporter


Will rendition of this man land MPs in jail for war crimes?

British ministers could be found guilty of war crimes if the US refuses to hand back a Pakistani citizen held without charge in Afghanistan for seven years.

The government confirmed today that it has complied with a Court of Appeal ruling and written to the US to demand the return of Yunus Rahmatullah to British custody.

Mr Rahmatullah was captured by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and handed to the US, who renditioned him to Bagram airbase in Afghanistan where he has remained ever since.

His lawyers argue that he is still technically under British control as a result of an agreement between Britain and the US.

British ministers are therefore responsible for his treatment – which may breach the Geneva Conventions.

Cori Crider of legal action charity Reprieve said: ‘The only question left is: does the US keep the bargains it makes with its closest ally?

‘The Obama administration has said it wishes to restore US standing abroad and to bring the US back into line with the Geneva Conventions – well, there is no time like the present.

‘Were the US not to hand over Mr Rahmatullah, they would expose British officials to war crimes charges.

‘It is inconceivable that the US would behave this way. We look forward to seeing Yunus handed to British custody in January.’

Reprieve and Leigh Day Solicitors finally won a legal action last week seeking a writ of habeas corpus which would force Britain to call for Mr Rahmatullah’s release.

Three appeal judges overturned a High Court ruling in July which rejected their arguments and refused to grant the writ.

Lord Justice Laws had said Mr Rahmatullah was ‘in the hands of the Americans’ and it was ‘impossible’ to say that British ministers were in a position to ‘direct (his) delivery.’

But Lord Justice Maurice Kay said last week that Mr Rahmatullah ‘is being unlawfully detained’ and that British ministers have procedures available ‘to enable them to take steps which could bring the unlawful detention to an end.’

The government announced it would appeal to the Supreme Court.

But after a further hearing of the Court of Appeal today the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence confirmed that they have written to the US Department of Defence to ‘request that the United States transfers Mr Rahmatullah to UK custody in order for him to be released.’

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said the government had ‘obtained leave to appeal the judgement to the Supreme Court.

‘In the meantime, in compliance with the court’s writ, (the government) continues to be in correspondence with the US government.’

The court gave the government until January 18 to secure Mr Rahmatullah’s release.


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