Britain goes on trial over torture of suspects in Afghanistan

Britain has been accused of complicity in the torture of Taliban suspects arrested and handed over to the Afghan security forces to face "horrible abuse".

The allegations are made by the peace campaigner Maya Evans, from St Leonards, East Sussex, who yesterday went to the High Court to seek a judicial review of the Government's detainee transfer policy in Afghanistan.

Ms Evans claims that the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office adopted the approach "of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil" so they did not have to take responsibility for Taliban suspects after they had left British hands.

She is being represented by Public Interest Lawyers (PIL), who have gathered material which they say shows a wide range of abuse of suspects handed over to the National Directorate of Security (NDS), a secret service organisation in Afghanistan.

Among the nine cases are allegations of beatings, electrocution, sleep deprivation and whipping with rubber cables. One detainee said he was punched and hit on the head, while a second prisoner said he was subjected to stress positions and sleep deprivation. Two others said they suffered electric shocks and were beaten with a cable.

PIL say the "horrific brutality" of NDS is well-documented, and that the UK detainee transfer policy violates Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects against inhuman and degrading treatment.

Ms Evans's lawyers argue the UK government has chosen to rely on a "manifestly unsafe" memorandum of understanding with the Afghan authorities that human rights obligations would be observed by the NDS.

Michael Fordham QC, appearing for Ms Evans, said in court: "The issue in this case is whether the practice of handing over of suspect insurgents to the NDS is compatible with Article 3." He told Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mr Justice Cranston: "We will submit emphatically that it is not."