Bagram Prisoner's Bid For Freedom Rebuffed In UK

Published February 20, 2012 3:36PM (EST)

LONDON (AP) — Britain's Court of Appeal has accepted that the government has been unable to comply with an order to obtain the release of a Pakistani man from a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan because "the Americans are not going to play ball."

In December, lawyers for Yunus Rahmatullah won a writ of habeas corpus from the court to compel British officials to bring the prisoner before the court.

But on Monday government lawyers said the U.S. has refused to release the prisoner it has held for eight years, and the Court of Appeal accepted that outcome. It will release its written judgment on Thursday.

"A writ of habeas corpus was issued to test whether Mr. Rahmatullah could be released," James Eadie, a lawyer for the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense, told judges.

"The Americans are not going to play ball. The Foreign Office view is that we have reached the end of the road," Eadie said. "They don't accept that we have an unqualified right and that they have an unqualified obligation under international law."

Lawyers Rahmatullah and the legal rights group Reprieve contended that international law required Britain to be responsible for his care since British forces in Iraq originally seized him in 2004. He was turned over to U.S. custody and transferred to the detention facility at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

"This is far from over," said Clair Algar, Reprieve's executive director.

"The British government's failure to persuade its supposedly closest ally to honor agreements signed between the two countries has left it open to war crimes charges. The government now faces yet another investigation over its involvement in torture and rendition," Algar said.

On Saturday — the deadline for complying with the habeas corpus writ — Reprieve lodged a formal complaint with London's Metropolitan police accusing the government of a role in war crimes against Rahmatullah and a man arrested with him, Amanatullah Ali.

"Unlike some crimes, this is an ongoing one. These men continue to be held in breach of the Geneva Conventions, with no one having been held accountable for the crimes committed against them," Reprieve's director, Clive Stafford Smith, said in the complaint.

By Salon Staff

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