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Afghanistan: Detainees

Volume 495: debated on Monday 6 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 26 February 2009, Official Report, columns 394-97W, on Records of detention (review conclusions), what the names of each of the two individuals transferred from Iraq to Afghanistan in 2004 are; at what US detention facilities they (a) have been and (b) are being held; what steps the Government has taken to verify US assurances on the treatment of the two individuals; whether the UK has the power to demand (i) access to and (ii) the return of the two individuals; on what date officials were first made aware of (A) the intention to transfer the two individuals and (B) the transfer itself; what international law applies to people held on behalf of other coalition forces; and if he will make a statement. (283335)

[holding answer 30 June 2009]: It is not the practice of this Department to release personal information, such as the names of these two individuals. The individuals were initially held at a US detention facility in Baghdad before they were transferred to US detention facilities at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. As my predecessor made clear in his statement, when this information came to light officials immediately engaged with their US counterparts and were assured that the individuals are held in a humane, safe and secure environment that meets international standards that are consistent with applicable cultural and religious norms. I am satisfied that these assurances are reliable; although there is no formal legal power for the UK to demand access to the individuals, close relationships with the US satisfy me that this is not required. After 31 December 2008 the UK has no power of detention in Iraq so demanding the return of these two individuals would not be practical nor possible.

The review examined the available historical records, which suggest that British officials became aware of an intention to transfer in March 2004, although this was some days after the initial capture had occurred. British officials had learned by mid-June 2004 that the individuals had been transferred to Afghanistan.

What particular international law provisions apply will depend on the operational theatre and the circumstances; I am not in a position to make general statements on what legal provisions may apply as each operational theatre is different.