UK Government has six days to avoid war crimes investigation

February 14, 2012

The British Government could face investigation over war crimes committed in the rendition of prisoners during the Iraq war, unless it can persuade the US to honour agreements governing detainee transfers within the week.

A British court last year ordered the UK Government to secure the release of Yunus Rahmatullah, who was captured by British forces in Iraq in 2004 and subsequently ‘rendered’ to a US prison in Afghanistan.

Although he is currently in a US-run prison – where he has been held without charge or trial for nearly eight years – the UK retains control of him under an agreement signed between the two countries at the time of the Iraq invasion.

The UK Government has been ordered to secure his release by Monday 20 February because his rendition and detention are and were illegal under the Geneva Conventions, and because the US promised in 2003 to send all UK-seized prisoners back to the UK upon request.

If the Ministry of Defence fails to secure the return of Yunus Rahmatullah, as a result of the US breaking its obligation to keep its promise and hand him over, they will be left open to war crimes charges– as the Geneva Conventions are part of British criminal law, and failure by the UK to remedy the breach caused by his transfer to Bagram prison in Afghanistan may make the UK criminally complicit.

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 Legal Director, Cori Crider said: “It is now nearly eight years since Yunus Rahmatullah was seized by the British, only to disappear God knows where and turn up in Bagram months later.  This wasa war crime, and the UK has a duty to remedy the breach. As yet we justdon’t yet know what the UK government have done to try to retrievetheir prisoner.  What we do know is that it will be disastrous for boththe US and the UK if Britain fails. The US, having shown its word to beworthless, will be an unfit partner for any future Memorandum ofUnderstanding. Here in Britain, UK officials should fully expect tohave to answer for their individual roles in a grave breach of theGeneva Conventions.”


Notes to editors

For further information, please go to or contact Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0) 207 427 1082