Court hearing today 0930 on Iraq rendition; UK Govt faces threat of war crimes investigation over Yunus Rahmatullah

February 20, 2012

The British Government could face investigation over war crimes committed in the rendition of prisoners during the Iraq war unless it can secure the release of a detainee from Bagram prison, Afghanistan, by this (Monday) morning.

In a court hearing at 0930 in Court 71 of the Royal Courts of Justice before the Master of the Rolls and Lord Justices Kay and Sullivan, the Government must report on whether it has succeeded in retrieving Yunus Rahmatullah, who was captured by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and subsequently ‘rendered’ to Afghanistan.

The Court of Appeals last year ordered the UK Government to secure Mr Rahmatullah’s release, ruling that his rendition and detention constituted a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, otherwise known as a war crime.If the Ministry of Defence fails to remedy the breach by securing Mr Rahmatullah’s return, the UK will be vulnerable to war crimes charges.

Any refusal by the US to release Mr Rahmatullah will also raise questions over how far they can be trusted in future to honour agreements signed between the two allies. Reprieve’s Director Clive Stafford Smith said:

“It is now nearly eight years since Yunus Rahmatullah was seized by the British, only to disappear to Abu Ghraib and God knows where else and turn up in Bagram months later.  This was a war crime, and the UK has a duty to remedy the breach. As yet we have seen nothing meaningful from the UK government to fulfil its legal and moral obligation.  What we do know is that if the US fails to respect its legal obligations towards the UK, it can no longer pretend to be a country that respects and promotes the rule of law. As for Britain, it will be continuing to breach its duties under the Geneva Conventions.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information please go to  or contact Donald Campbell or Katherine O’Shea in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)7931592674

2. 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 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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