British troops in Afghanistan are holding 80 to 90 people, some for as long as 14 months, without charging them. Lawyers call it a ‘secret prison’ akin to Guantanamo Bay, but the government says the facility is operated legally.
The prisoners, Afghan nationals suspected of crimes or having links to insurgents, are kept in detention at Camp Bastion, the largest UK base in Afghanistan, housing some 30,000 troops. Normally British troops are supposed to hold prisoners in custody for no longer than 96 hours, but under exceptional circumstances longer detention is possible.
Apparently there are almost a hundred such exceptional cases currently. Lawyers acting for eight of the men say some of the prisoners have been held without charge for up to 14 months, arguing that it could be amount to unlawful detention. They also say that the situation has been kept a secret from the public.
“The UK could have trained the Afghan authorities to detain people lawfully with proper standards and making sure that they are treated humanely,” Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, told the BBC.
“Parliament has not been told that we have this secret facility,” he added.
UK Parliamentary officials found out about the camp themselves from press reports.
“I found out from the news outlets, but I do understand that it has been on the Ministry of Defence website for some time that there were people who were being held there,” British Labour MP, Barry Gardiner, told RT, going on to say:
“They’re being held without charge, but not without an end to the process,” in comparison to Guantanamo. “I don’t accept the parallel with Guantanamo, but I do agree that it is a very distressing matter that these men have been in detention for so long and it has not yet been brought to a judicial conclusion.”
British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed the detention of the prisoners and their number, but not the time of their detention. He said Ministry of Defence did nothing wrong in the situation and denied the allegation that the government failed to report about the prisoners, saying both the current cabinet and the previous one informed the parliament.
- UK ‘ready to return Afghan suspects’ (bbc.co.uk)
- UK set to return up to 90 Afghans held without charge at ‘secret’ facility in Camp Bastion (independent.co.uk)
- British forces are detaining dozens in Afghanistan, Philip Hammond confirms (guardian.co.uk)