Records of Detention

Defence written question – answered on 13th July 2011.

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Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Chair, Treasury Sub-Committee, Chair, Treasury Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the oral statement of 26 February 2009, Official Report, columns 3294-97W, on records of detention (review conclusions) and the answer of 6 July 2009, Official Report, column 549W, on Afghanistan: detainees, what steps UK authorities took to determine the status, under the Geneva conventions, of the two detainees concerned; whether the two individuals were classified by the UK authorities as (a) prisoners of war, (b) civilians, (c) protected persons or (d) under any other legal classification; in what detention centres in Iraq the two detainees were held by the US prior to their transfer to Afghanistan; and on what date the two transfers to Afghanistan took place. [Official Report, 11 October 2011, Vol. 533, c. 3-4MC.]

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox The Secretary of State for Defence

holding answer 9 June 2011

These individuals were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and they were captured as they posed an imperative threat to security in Iraq. They had travelled to Iraq to target coalition forces and the operation launched against them was necessary in order to save lives. Our forces risked their lives to capture such individuals and to ensure the security of Iraq.

They were captured by UK forces in and around Baghdad in February 2004, at the time that the UK was an occupying power in south eastern Iraq, and immediately transferred to US forces in Iraq in accordance with established processes. The reason for this transfer was that the UK did not have its own detention facility close to where the two individuals were captured. The individuals were then held in US detention at Balad and subsequently transferred to a US detention facility in Afghanistan by August 2004.

UK forces did not undertake an assessment of whether or not the individuals were prisoners of war because they were immediately transferred to US forces for detention. As part of the review of the case completed by officials between late 2008 and early 2009, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) considered the status of the detainees and determined that, as there was no information to suggest that they were members of the armed forces of Iraq, they would not have been prisoners of war. They may have been protected persons under the Geneva conventions, subject to certain criteria being satisfied. If they were protected persons, compliance with the Geneva conventions in respect of detainees held by US forces was primarily a matter for the US.

The MOD is co-operating fully with Sir Peter Gibson's Detainee inquiry, the purpose of which was described by the Prime Minister, in July 2010 as to

“examine whether, and if so to what extent, the UK Government and its intelligence agencies were involved in improper treatment of detainees held by other countries in counter-terrorism operations overseas, or were aware of the improper treatment of detainees in operations in which the UK was involved”.

We understand that the Detainee inquiry will consider this case as part of their work.

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