Torture in Iraq: Pakistani citizen challenges UK’s ‘act of state’ stance

Published: September 25, 2014
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Rahmutallah is believed to have been first held at Camp Nama. PHOTO: ILLUSTRATION

Rahmutallah is believed to have been first held at Camp Nama. PHOTO: ILLUSTRATION

A Pakistani citizen who says he was tortured over a period of 10 years after being captured by UK special forces in Iraq and handed over to US troops will on Wednesday contest the government’s claim that he cannot pursue his case on the grounds that it would damage Britain’s relations with America, The Guardian reported.

Yunus Rahmatullah was seized in Iraq in 2004 in an incident that was kept secret from ministers and only disclosed to MPs five years later. Rahmatullah, now 31, was released by the US without charge in May and is seeking to sue the ministry of defence (MoD) and the foreign office, accusing them of responsibility for his subjection to torture and abuse.

The MoD and the foreign office claim that if the high court allows the case to go ahead, the UK’s defence and security relationship with the US would be seriously harmed. British government lawyers argue that the “act of state” doctrine means that a British court cannot question the activities of US troops.

Government lawyers have used the same argument to prevent Abdel Hakim Belhaj, a prominent Libyan dissident, and his wife from suing the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and MI6 over the couple’s abduction and subsequent rendition to Tripoli.

The lawyers argue that British courts cannot hear the Libyan case since any wrongdoing involved the CIA in activities abroad as well as the British government.

Rahmutallah is believed to have been first held at Camp Nama, a secret detention facility at Baghdad airport that British troops helped to run. He was later transferred to Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib jail before being rendered to the Bagram “black prison” in Afghanistan.

Last year the UK supreme court described Rahmatullah’s treatment by UK and US forces as unlawful and a possible war crime. “The, presumably forcible, transfer of Mr Rahmatullah from Iraq to Afghanistan is, at least prima facie, a breach of article 49 [of the fourth Geneva convention],” it said.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2014.

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