Afghan detentions ′legal,′ says British defense chief | News | DW | 29.05.2013
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Afghan detentions 'legal,' says British defense chief

Responding to allegations of illegal prisoner detentions at a facility in Afghanistan, Britain's defense secretary has defended the military's actions. He says the detentions are legal.

After allegations surfaced in British media that 80 to 90 Afghans were being unlawfully held at a detention facility, Britain's defense secretary has said the detentions were legal. He says there has always been transparency about the facility.

Responding to a story carried by the BBC on Wednesday that a British detention facility in Afghanistan was illegally the suspects without charge, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond has admitted that suspects are being held, but that their detention is legal.

"These are people suspected of murdering British troops, of facilitating or planting or being involved with IEDs [improvised explosive devices]," Hammond said in an interview with BBC radio on Wednesday.

The original BBC story carried allegations from lawyers representing some of the detainees from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan that had been held for up to 14 months without charge. The lawyers told BBC that Camp Bastion was comparable to the American prisoner detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Phil Shiner, one of the lawyers representing the Afghan detainees, also said the British parliament had been kept in the dark about the existence of the detention center at Camp Bastion.

Hammond rejected that particular claim as "patently ridiculous," adding that the government had been transparent about the facility. He also added that Britain had wanted to transfer the prisoners to detention facilities controlled by Afghanistan but had refrained from doing so due to concerns for the detainees' safety.

"Our attention was drawn to some concerns around one particular Afghan facility," Hammond said on BBC. "We were unable to obtain cast-iron guarantees that the prisoners that we were transferring wouldn't be transferred into that facility, and so I decided last November that we had to stop transfers until we had sorted that out and got a safe pathway."

The transfers will hopefully take place soon, Hammond said.

Britain is part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, which is led by the United States and includes Germany.

mz/kms (dpa, AFP, AP)