Thursday, November 24, 2011

Hearing tomorrow 1030am Court of Appeal: Bagram prisoner Yunus Rahmatullah v British Government

23 November 2011
Yunus Rahmatullah

Lawyers representing a prisoner held illegally at the US military prison at Bagram Airbase will today seek to force the British Government to secure his release.

Yunus Rahmatullah was picked up in Iraq by British forces in 2004 and handed over for rendition by the US to Afghanistan. He has been held without charge or trial in the notorious Bagram Theater Internment Facility for over seven years.

In a compelling habeas case, Mr Rahmatullah's legal team will argue in the Court of Appeal that the British Government has the power to secure his release and is duty-bound to do so.

All welcome.

Yunus Rahmatullah vs Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Others
1030 am Thursday 24th October
Court 71, Court of Appeal
The Master of the Rolls; Lord Justice Maurice Kay; Lord Justice Sullivan


Notes to editors

1. For further information please go to or contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0)20 7427 1082

2. Yunus Rahmatullah has been held beyond the rule of law for over seven years in Bagram Airforce Base. He is said to be in a very grave mental and physical condition.

In February 2009, after years of government denials that the UK had been involved in any rendition operations, then-Secretary of State for Defence John Hutton announced to Parliament that UK forces had captured two men in Iraq in February 2004, and handed them to US forces. In subsequent statements to Parliament, the government revealed that in March 2004, British officials had become aware of the US intention to transfer the men from Iraq to Afghanistan.

The British government admitted its complicity in crime (kidnapping, otherwise called rendition), admitted it was wrong, and appeared to apologize. Yet it did not and refused to identify the men - a crucial step if they are to be reunited with their basic human rights. Indeed, the government has apparently done nothing over the past seven years to ensure that they receive legal assistance.

Reprieve led a complicated and expensive search for the identity of these men, which covered three continents over ten months. One of the men has been identified as Amanatullah Ali and the other as Yunus Rahmatullah.

Yunus Rahmatullah, also known by his nickname 'Saleh Huddin', was raised in the Gulf states. For six years, he was held incommunicado, unable to even contact his family. Reprieve has been told by multiple sources that, as a result of his abuse in UK and US custody, he is in catastrophic mental and physical shape, and now spends most of his time in the mental health cells at Bagram.

Yunus's family insist on keeping their current location confidential. They are legally in their country of residence, but fear that they will suffer reprisals if they are known to be opposing the British and US governments.

Yunus’s mother Fatima Rahmatullah issued the following statement on April 15, 2010:

“Yunus is the youngest and closest son to my heart. I lost my other son, his only brother, in a tragic accident. Now, Yunus is my only hope in life. I see him in my dreams; I pray daily that I will see him in my waking hours again.

“Our family was shocked when we learned that the British government might have been behind Yunus’ disappearance. I am told the British government has refused even to confirm that Yunus was the person they seized six years ago. As a mother, this is a position that I struggle to understand."

Reprieve sued the UK Government to formally identify Yunus Rahmatullah, and is now suing for habeas relief in the British courts. The case is now in the Court of Appeal.

3. Originally used to process prisoners captured during Operation Enduring Freedom, Bagram Theater Internment Facility has become backlogged with prisoners who are held for years without charge, trial or legal rights.

Hamidullah Khan, for example, was picked up while travelling from Karachi to his father's village in Waziristan to salvage the family's possesions during the ongoing military operation. He was just fourteen. He is currently being held at Bagram and his family are desperate for his return.

Unlike detainees at Guantánamo, prisoners at Bagram are still being held in a legal black-hole; they have no access to lawyers and thus are unable to challenge their detention, despite the fact that between 2002 and 2008 several prisoners who had undergone torture were released without having even been put on trial.

As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama unequivocally rejected the "false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus". Yet when his adminstration took office it chose to stand by Bush's legal arguments concerning Bagram detainees: as enemy combatants they had no constitutional rights.

Prisoners have been subjected to beatings, stress positions, sexual abuse and humiliation, sensory deprivation, sleep, food and water deprivation, exposure to cold temperature, dousing with cold water and blaring of loud music.

Tariq Dergoul, a British National, was injured by the Northern Alliance and then sold to the US for $5,000. While detained at Bagram, he suffered frostbite for which he was denied medical care. He ultimately required the amputation of the affected limb.

Dilawar was a taxi driver, known to be innocent by his interrogators, who was murdered by his captors in December 2002. He was subjected to over 100 sadistic blows to his legs by various guards, strikes performed as "a kind of running joke". As a result, his legs became "pulpified", according to the autopsy report, and the blunt trauma killed him.

Reprieve's local partner Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) is fighting a ground-breaking case filed on behalf of seven Pakistanis imprisoned in Bagram Air Base, which challenges the Pakistan Government over their role in renditions. Awwal Khan, Hamidullah Khan, Abdul Haleem Saifullah, Fazal Karim, Amal Khan, Iftikhar Ahmad and Yunus Rahmatullah were abducted from Pakistan and taken to Bagram, where they have been kept without charge or trial since 2003. One prisoner is merely 16 years of age and was seized two years ago at the age of 14. Another was not permitted to speak to his family for six years, and is believed to be in a grievous physical and psychological condition.

For the BBC's reporting on allegations of abuse and neglect at Bagram please click here.

Bagram prison originally consisted of crude pens fashioned from metal cages surrounded by coils of razor wire. Roughly twenty people shared a cage, sleeping on foam mats and using plastic buskets as toilets. Military personnel described it as "far more spartan" than Guantánamo.

Faced with serious overcrowding in 2004, the military began refurbishing the prison and installed flush toilets. As of 2005, the US Army claimed that Bagram had a maximum capacity of 595 prisoners. The basic infrastructure, however, remained the same. Hundreds of detainees were still held in wire-mesh pens and exercise, kitchen and bathroom space was minimal.

In August 2008 the US government awarded a $50 million contract for a new prison. This is now completed, but in the wake of the redevelopment reports still circulate of an undisclosed part of the site (sometimes referred to as a "Temporary Screening Facility") where abusive practices continue.

4. 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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