News story

Transfer of detainees to Afghan custody to resume

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The MOD intends to restart the transfer of detainees captured by UK forces into the Afghan judicial system.

The entrance way to Camp Bastion in Helmand, Afghanistan (library image) [Picture: Corporal Steve Blake, Crown copyright]
The entrance way to Camp Bastion in Helmand, Afghanistan (library image)

This follows a decision by the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond.

Mr Hammond suspended transfers in November 2012 after evidence was received of a risk of mistreatment of detainees while in Afghan custody.

Abuse of detainees is illegal under the Afghan penal code and international human rights law, and the UK will not transfer detainees to any facility where there is a real risk of serious mistreatment.

Since November last year, the Ministry of Defence has been working with the Afghan authorities to identify a safe and effective route to transfer those captured by UK forces on the battlefield into the Afghan judicial system. Many of these individuals are suspected of involvement in the preparation, facilitation or laying of improvised explosive devices against UK forces, or have been picked up at the scenes of shootings of British troops. They have been held pending transfer to Afghan authorities for prosecution.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond (library image) [Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown copyright]

The Defence Secretary is now satisfied that it is safe to transfer detainees to the Afghan National Detention Facility in Parwan, and the Ministry of Defence has notified interested parties of the intention to resume transfers after 21 days.

The detention facility at Parwan is located at the US military airfield in Bagram and is operated and controlled by the Afghan National Army, with the US providing logistical support while Afghan capability continues to build.

British troops detain suspected extremists captured on the battlefield under the authority of the UN security mandate. UK forces hold detainees where there is evidence linking them to criminal activity before transferring them to Afghan authorities for further investigation prior to prosecution.

Mr Hammond said:

We have been working to identify a safe transfer route to Afghan custody and I am pleased that this work has come to fruition. I very much hope we do not face any further legal impediments in the British courts which could prevent us from transferring these detainees and force us to hold them for even longer in Camp Bastion.

The facility at Parwan is run by the Afghan National Army, trained and mentored by US forces, and has received positive reports from humanitarian organisations that monitor conditions. Our coalition allies also now transfer detainees to the same Afghan facility. I am confident the safeguards in place will ensure detainees will not be at risk of mistreatment.

Detaining individuals on the battlefield is crucial to stopping those who intend to kill British servicemen and women. Our troops must be able to detain enemies on the battlefield and debrief them for intelligence purposes and will continue to do so before transferring them into the Afghan judicial system.

Published 6 June 2013