Two judges will today hear allegations that the British government has been knowingly complicit, for a number of years, in the torture of British-arrested prisoners by the Afghan secret police.
The judicial review case has been brought by Maya Evans, the prominent peace-campaigner, challenging the British government’s policy of handing all prisoners detained in Afghanistan to the notorious Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), about whom human rights monitors have repeatedly aired grave concerns.
These concerns were first raised by Amnesty International in its 2007 report ‘Afghanistan: Detainees transferred to torture: ISAF complicity?’ prompting the launch of Evans’ judicial review in late 2008.
In mid-2009 the UK government was forced to concede that a full hearing must take place, following disclosure of a number of allegations of NDS torture by former British prisoners in mid-2009.
Since then, the UK government has been forced to hand over damning evidence which shows clear knowledge of the risk of NDS torture, evidence which will come to light at the hearing beginning today.
Instead of confronting Afghan torture practices, and honouring its international law obligations, the British government has chosen the path of cooperation with torturers, say her lawyers.
The extent of that cooperation will become clear at the High Court hearing.
Startlingly similar evidence about the practices of Canadian forces has lead to a political scandal that currently threatens to engulf that government.
Speaking on Saturday, Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers said: ‘We are astounded by the evidence that the government has had to hand over in this case.
‘This is not a question of bad apples. This is British complicity in torture, authorised at the highest levels of government and perpetuated in the face of a growing and worrying number of allegations.’
Daniel Carey of Public Interest Lawyers added: ‘International law couldn’t be clearer. You can’t hand people over to torturers.
‘It is time for the government to stop burying its head in the sand about this. How many more people have to be tortured before it acknowledges the problem?’
Maya Evans said: ‘The government is deeply mired in allegations of torture in Afghanistan. I’m pleased that, at last, a British court is to scrutinise this.
‘Human rights should be at the centre of our government’s policy, not an inconvenient afterthought.’
The case will be heard from 2.00pm today at the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2. The hearing is due to last for over one week.