(2) what his policy is regarding the (a) exchange and (b) handing over of prisoners held by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to the custody of US forces in those countries; and to what extent his policy has changed in the last year;
[holding answer 25 May 2006]: In Iraq, following the end of hostilities and the completion of the UK’s prisoner release programme in April 2003, a total of 358 prisoners taken into custody by the UK were transferred to US custody at Camp Bucca. With the opening of the UK’s Divisional Temporary Detention Facility in December 2003, our records show that they (along with further individuals transferred into US custody in the interim), were either released, or transferred back to UK custody. During 2003, a further six individuals were transferred to US custody in different circumstances. Four individuals, who have since been released, were transferred to US custody and held at Abu Ghraib. Two individuals classified as High Value Targets were taken into custody by the UK and subsequently transferred to US custody. They were subsequently transferred to the jurisdiction of the Iraq Special tribunal, although they remain in US physical custody.
Since December 2003, a further 13 security internees, have been transferred from UK to US custody at various times. All have since been released. Our policy on the transfer of detainees to US custody is to consider each case on its merits taking into account the operational circumstances and appropriate safeguards on their treatment. This policy has not changed over the last year.
In Afghanistan, UK forces operate in accordance with NATO’s policy on detention for the International Security Assistance Force, which is either to transfer detainees to Afghan custody as soon as practicable or, if appropriate, to release them. I refer the hon. Member to the answer my predecessor gave on 24 January 2006, Official Report, column 1982, to the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), in which he stated that the UK does not plan to transfer individuals detained in Afghanistan into the custody of US forces. This policy has not changed over the previous year.