UK Supreme Court hearing today 1030 on Iraq renditions case

July 2, 2012

Image of Yunus Rahmatullah

The British Government will today be forced to answer for its ongoing failure to retrieve Yunus Rahmatullah, a prisoner seized by UK forces in Iraq and subsequently illegally rendered to Afghanistan, where he has been held for eight years without charge or trial.

Lawyers for Mr Rahmatullah are appealing the UK’s failure in the Supreme Court; a two-day hearing begins today (02 July) in Court 1 at 1030am.

Mr Rahmatullah was handed to the US by UK forces in 2004 under a Memorandum of Understanding (‘MoU’) which said the UK could seek his return if required. The MoU invoked and reinforced the Geneva Conventions which the US had shown it did not honour for prisoners of the War on Terror. The British Court of Appeals last year ordered the UK Government to secure Mr Rahmatullah’s immediate release from Bagram Prison, ruling that his rendition and detention constituted a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions – otherwise known as a war crime – which the UK was obliged to remedy.

The British Government subsequently failed to remedy the breach, telling the Court that it had discharged its habeas corpus obligations merely by writing a polite letter to the US Department of Defence. The Court of Appeals heavily criticised the Ministry’s betrayal of Mr Rahmatullah, but nevertheless accepted its letter to the US  as sufficient to discharge the habeas order.Mr Rahmatullah’s lawyers will today argue that this attempt was woefully inadequate. The US has not refused to hand over Mr Rahmatullah – because if it did the Obama Administration would refresh the Bush Administration’s grave breach.

Reprieve’s Legal Director Cori Crider said:“It is now over 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 to this day Yunus is held in violation of Geneva. The UK has the power and the duty to remedy the breach. Yet we have seen no meaningful action from the UK government to fulfil its obligation.  We hope the UK’s Ministry of Defence will in the ind be made to honour its duties under the MoU and the Geneva Conventions.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information please go to  or contact 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.’

Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.