Reprieve sues the British Government over the two men rendered by the UK to Bagram

April 15, 2010

Reprieve reveals the likely identity of the second victim via press conference today; British Government tries to intimidate Reprieve into dropping legal action.

After misleading Parliament and the public and forcing innocent families to suffer for six years, the British Government is now attempting to intimidate Reprieve out of filing suit on behalf of rendition victims held indefinitely at the notorious Bagram Internment Facility.

The British Government has admitted to rendering two men to Bagram in 2004 but bizarrely refused to reveal their names; last year Reprieve discovered the first man’s identity. We have now identified the second victim, Yunus Rahmatullah (Saleh), who was apparently wrongly identified and mistakenly imprisoned.

Reprieve is today (15th April) launching litigation on the preliminary claim that Saleh must be formally identified by the British Government if he is ever to be retrieved from this legal black hole.

Saleh is suffering indefinitely in the mental health wing of Bagram, unable to contact his family or a lawyer. The British legal aid system has not yet allowed Saleh’s family to bring a case because the proof is not sufficient that Saleh is the prisoner who was rendered to Afghanistan. Yet the only people who can prove this without doubt are the British Government – who refuse to do so. We are therefore in a circular Catch 22.

The indefinite detention of prisoners in a legal black hole such as Bagram is antithetical to the rule of law. In public, Justice Minister Jack Straw takes a strong line on such issues, yet there is a dark side to the Government’s position.

Reprieve has tried hard to avoid litigation, offering the Government every opportunity to identify the prisoners and provide rudimentary assistance in reuniting them with the rule of law. The Government has rejected all of these overtures. Reprieve has therefore been forced to spend several thousand pounds to track down the victims and their families.

Now the Government has threatened Reprieve that it will seek to impose costs on the charity if Reprieve brings litigation to enforce the prisoners’ basic rights. This is an attempt to intimidate Reprieve into dropping the litigation.

On April 12, 2010, Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith wrote to Jack Straw seeking assurance that the government would withdraw this threat. It is now up to the Ministry of Justice to respond to that demand.

Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve, said: 

 “The Government may think that bully-boy tactics will intimidate us. In truth, they merely steel our resolve. Yunus Rahmatullah’s mother cries herself to sleep at night because the Government refuses to do the decent thing, and confirm or deny whether her son is alive, and whether her son was rendered from Iraq six years ago. We will never diverge from doing what is right because some misguided official decides to threaten us.”

For further information and a full briefing on this case, including the new disclosure of the apparent identity of the ‘Second Man’ rendered by the British and Clive Stafford Smith’s letter to Jack Straw, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office: katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/07931592674.

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641Email: info@reprieve.org.ukWebsite: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Chair: Lord Bingham; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner