Secret detention row forces UK to hand over suspects to Afghans

Defence Secretary admits Britain holding dozens of suspected insurgents without trial in Helmand

Up to 90 prisoners are being held without charge at the British base in Helmand, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has confirmed.

The transfer of the suspected insurgents, some of them allegedly responsible for the killings of British service personnel, to Afghan custody was halted after claims that they may face mistreatment.

Mr Hammond said work was going on “very intensively” with the Afghan authorities to create the safe conditions for detainees to be transferred to the Afghan system and he said he hoped that this would be achieved “within a matter of days”.

“We are holding a number of people in the temporary holding facility in Camp Bastion – far more than we would like to be holding,” he acknowledged. “We would like nothing more than to be able to hand these people over to the Afghan authorities so that they can go properly through the Afghan judicial system.”

Solicitor Phil Shiner, who represents eight of the men, said: “This is a secret facility that has been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they have kept secret, that Parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously, when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan, have  never been told about – completely off the radar.”

Mr Hammond responded that Mr Shiner’s firm had started proceedings against the MoD last year “precisely to prevent us handing them over to the Afghan judicial authorities”. He added that claims of a “secret facility” and Parliament being kept in the dark were “patently ridiculous”. The Ministry of Defence stated that successive governments have reported to Parliament on detention operations in Afghanistan and references in Hansard as far back as 2009 confirm this; Mr Hammond updated the House last in December 2012 on this issue. The number of detainees held at the facility in Camp Bastion has also been publicly released.

Detainees are held in a temporary holding facility that is inspected regularly by the International Committee of the Red Cross. This facility has also been inspected by MPs of the cross-party House of Commons Defence Committee, who reported to Parliament on the subject earlier this year, said the MoD.

“Our client has been held at Camp Bastion since August 2012,” said Rosa Curling, a lawyer with the firm Leigh Day, which is representing a 20-year-old detainee. “He has not been charged with any crime and has had no access to a lawyer so he can receive legal advice about his ongoing detention.”

General Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence, told the BBC that the detentions were illegal and inhumane. “The prisoners must be handed over to the Afghan authorities,” he said. “After their handover to us, they will be dealt with according to our judicial laws and  the agreements reached with the international community.”

Hammond to stand firm over call for £2bn in defence cuts

The Defence Secretary Philip Hammond signalled that he would fight an attempt by the Treasury to cut his department’s core funding.

Mr Hammond, right, has been told to cut the MOD’s budget by up to £2bn for next month’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

But in an interview, he suggested that he would attempt to block any cutbacks that affected military capability.

His remarks are likely to irritate the Chancellor George Osborne, who has told ministers to identify savings in their departments and not plead for exemptions.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Hammond said that while he was in favour of “efficiency savings”, “output cuts” would have an impact on military capabilities.

“There is a difference between efficiency savings, which may be difficult to achieve but are painless in terms of the impact on the front line, and output cuts.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine