High Court Judge Rules UK Government Not Entitled to Immunity From Claims Brought by Torture & Rendition Victim
A high court judge in the United Kingdom has ruled that a Pakistani detained by British forces in Iraq in February 2004 may proceed with claims against the UK government related to his rendition, torture and detention.
Yunus Rahmatullah, a Pakistani, is not barred by the doctrine of state immunity or the doctrine of foreign act of state, Justice George Leggatt ruled. The government had argued that the foreign act of state doctrine precluded an English court “from making findings that agents of a friendly foreign state”—the United States—had “committed acts which were unlawful.”
The same decision also cleared the way for three Iraqi civilians to bring claims against the UK government as well.
When Rahmatullah was captured, according to the human rights organization, Reprieve, which is representing him, he was “beaten unconscious by British special forces in Iraq.” Soldiers stripped him naked and one soldier poured water on his face after placing a cloth on his mouth and nose, which created a “sensation of drowning.”
The Guardian further reported that Rahmatullah was “shackled and hooded and lapsed in and out of consciousness as he was beaten and thrown against a wall.” He was also “suspended upside down and ‘repeatedly dunked into a tank of water.'”
At one point, he was taken to a room “where he was horrified to see six or seven naked detainees piled on top of each other”, according to the court statement. He was thrown on top of the detainees and kept in the room for more than two days.
Rahmatullah was transferred into the custody of US forces and taken to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan before March 2004 was over. There Rahmatullah was imprisoned for 10 years without charge or trial and allegedly subjected to “torture” and other abuse.
Altogether, he claims he endured “severe assaults, incommunicado detention, exposure to extremes of temperature and sound, tear gas and long periods of darkness, being placed in a tiny ‘air lock’ cell, being kept naked with other detainees, being beaten on the soles of his feet with rubber flex, and being immersed upside down into tanks of water.”
In May 2014, Rahmatullah was transferred from Bagram Air Base to Pakistan. He was released from custody in Pakistan a couple months later on June 17.
The main basis of Rahmatullah’s case against the UK government is that the UK had a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US established days after the invasion of Iraq on March 25, 2003. It set parameters for the transfer of prisoners of war, civilian internees and civilian detainees between armed forces.
“Any prisoners of war, civilian internees and civilian detainees transferred by a detaining power will be returned by the accepting power to the detaining power without delay upon request by the detaining power,” according to the MOU.