British soldiers may not hold their enemies in Afghanistan as prisoners for longer than 96 hours because to do so would breach their human rights, a judge ruled yesterday. It means that Taliban chieftains captured by British troops must be freed to fight again within four days. (Somebody please check his wig, it must be on too tight)
UK Daily Mail The judgment – which followed claims brought by four Taliban commanders now held in Afghan jails – alarmed military chiefs and politicians. They believe soldiers should not be asked to fight and die on the battlefield according to the letter of human rights law.
The 117-page High Court ruling by Mr Justice Leggatt means that the European Convention on Human Rights, and the UK’s Human Rights Act, which made the convention part of British law, apply wherever British troops are fighting. The judge said that by detaining Taliban leader Serdar Mohammed for 106 days beyond the legal 96-hour limit, Britain had breached his right to liberty.
Taxpayers will now have to pay compensation running into tens of thousands to Mohammed and three other captives involved in the case. The ruling also opens the way for many other Afghan detainees to sue for compensation, with British law firms likely to be queuing up to help them.
There will also be high legal costs for the taxpayer. Two legal firms represented the Taliban prisoners on no-win no-fee deals, and the case involved 11 barristers. The MoD is likely to face a six-figure bill. The case revolved around the arrest and detention of Serdar Mohammed in April 2010.
The judge said it was ‘clear law’ that the Human Rights Act binds the armed forces in Afghanistan. He said: ‘The UK Government had no legal basis either under Afghan law or in international law for detaining [Serdar Mohammed] after 96 hours.’
After the case, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the MoD would appeal against the ruling. ‘We cannot send our armed forces into battle with both hands tied behind their backs,’ he warned. ‘Our troops must be able to detain our enemies who aim to maim and kill UK service personnel and innocent civilians. It cannot be right for the European Convention on Human Rights to apply on the battlefield, restricting the ability of our troops to operate in combat.’