UK Court Invalidates British Forces’ Afghan Detention Program

Today, the United Kingdom Court of Appeal handed down its judgement in Serdar Mohammed v Ministry of Defense. A case of great import for British detention policy in Afghanistan, the main appeal centered on the lawfulness of the 110-day detention of a suspected Taliban commander, Serdar Mohammed, by British forces in Afghanistan in 2010.

The Court of Appeal held that under Afghan law and Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, British forces had no authority to detain Mohammed beyond 96 hours for any of the three reasons put forward by the UK Secretary of State for Defence, including that his captivity was provided for under the laws of war. Further, the Court found that the Secretary of State had not provided the appropriate procedural safeguards under international law for a non-international armed conflict.

Per the Court’s summary of its ruling:

We have concluded that the arrangements made by the Secretary of State in relation to the deployment of HM armed forces to Afghanistan and for the detention of those engaged in attacking HM armed forces did not enable persons to be detained by HM armed forces for longer than 96 hours; such persons should then . . . have been handed over to the Afghan authorities or released.

In considering whether the UK government had any implicit authority to detain as derived from treaties, the Court quoted Just Security’s Ryan Goodman at length in paragraphs 208-209, including an  excerpt from his February post on the case.

We’ll have more to come on this important case. In the meantime, check out Just Security’s mini-forum from last May on the case, as well as Ruchi Parekh’s comprehensive overview ahead of the Court of Appeal hearing.

The judgement can be found below:

Serdar Mohammed v Ssd Yunus Rahmatullah v Mod and Fco

 

About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security