Afghans “unlawfully held” by UK forces at Camp Bastion
Defence secretary Phillip Hammond has confirmed that the UK is holding between 80 and 90 Afghan detainees at Camp Bastion.
Documents obtained by the BBC claim many of these detainees held at the camp, which is Britain’s largest military camp in Afghanistan, may be being held illegally.
British forces in Afghanistan, operating as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), are allowed to detain suspects for 96 hours in “exceptional circumstances” such as gathering critical intelligence in order to protect lives in which they can hold them for longer periods. However, UK lawyers acting on the behalf of some detainees claim their clients have been held for far longer than 96 hours. Indeed, it has been claimed that some detainees have been held for periods of up to 14 months without being charged.
Many of the detainees held at Camp Bastion have been accused of killing British soldiers. The families of two of the men who appear to have been held the longest said they were arrested in spring last year and interrogated in the weeks that followed.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) have previously stated that the ISAF does not have the power to detain inmates in Afghanistan. However, a ban imposed by defence secretary Phillip Hammond stating that the British military cannot hand inmates back to the Afghan authorities over fears of ill treatment has altered Britain’s stance on detainees.
Phil Shiner, acting as lawyer for eight of the men currently at Camp Bastion, stated: “This is a secret facility that has been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they have kept secret, that Parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan have never been told about – completely off the radar.”
Shiner added: “It is reminiscent of the public’s awakening that there was a Guantanamo Bay. And people will be wondering if these detainees are being treated humanely and in accordance with international law.”
In a statement, the MoD confirmed the existence of a temporary holding facility but would not comment on the numbers of detainees held there or on individual cases.