European Court blocks UK handover of Iraqi detainees

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The Independent Online

The European Court of Human Rights blocked the handover to the Iraqi authorities of the last two remaining prisoners held by British forces in Basra yesterday– just hours after the Court of Appeal in London ruled that they could be transferred.

The two Iraqi nationals, Faisal al-Saadoon, 56, and Khalaf Mufdhi, 58, are accused of the murder in Iraq of two British soldiers. The UK authorities want to transfer them from British custody there to Iraqi custody, for trial by the Iraqi High Tribunal.

But the men claim that would violate their human rights because of the risk they could face torture, an unfair trial and the death penalty in Iraqi custody.

The last-minute injunction from Strasbourg means that another appeal will have to be heard before the fate of the pair is decided.

Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers, a civil rights group opposing the transfer, said "a further appeal of this important case is now possible in 2009 despite the expiry of the UN Mandate on 31 December 2008."