2 Brits rendered to Bagram
- Britain Acknowledges 2 Detainees Are in U.S. Prison in Afghanistan
By Karen DeYoung and Del Quentin Wilber
The British government, after years of denying it had any role in the
U.S. policy of "extraordinary rendition," acknowledged yesterday that
two prisoners its military forces turned over to U.S. custody in Iraq
five years ago were subsequently sent to a U.S. prison in Afghanistan.
In a statement to Parliament, Defense Secretary John Hutton
apologized for what he said was "inaccurate information . . . given
to the House by my department" on previous occasions. The transfer,
he said, was unknown to his predecessor and came to his attention
only in December during an internal investigation in response to
Hutton said that the rendition involving two Pakistani men, who have
been in custody at Bagram air base in Afghanistan since 2004,
violated a U.S.-British memorandum of understanding specifying
that "no person captured with assistance" from British forces "will
be removed from the territory of Iraq without prior consultation."
The Pentagon quickly took responsibility for the lapse. "There was a
level of formal coordination that should have taken place with
respect to a transfer of this nature," spokesman Bryan Whitman
said. "Unfortunately, that did not occur in this case. It was an
Revelations about the previously unknown renditions brought immediate
criticism in Britain from political opposition and human rights
groups and are likely to complicate the Obama administration's
efforts to persuade European and other governments to accept
prisoners released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President Obama last month issued an executive order to close the
Guantanamo facility within a year and began a case-by-case review of
all 245 prisoners there. But concerns have been raised in this
country and abroad that similar reviews and rights have not been
accorded prisoners detained at Bagram where the United States
maintains a large prison and is currently building a massive new
facility and that some Guantanamo detainees may be transferred
About 650 prisoners are currently being held at Bagram, at least 20
of whom including the two Pakistanis are believed to be non-
Afghans captured outside the Afghan war zone.
Last week, the administration, in a one-paragraph filing in U.S.
District Court in Washington, said it would continue the Bush
administration's policy of not granting to Bagram detainees the
rights that Guantanamo prisoners won in federal courts to challenge
Guantanamo detainees won habeas corpus rights in a landmark Supreme
Court ruling in June, but its provisions were limited to those held
in Cuba. At a hearing before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates held
shortly before Obama's inauguration, four Bagram detainees argued
that they should have the same rights as those held in Guantanamo. A
Justice Department attorney argued that they did not have the right
to challenge their confinement because they were "unlawful enemy
combatants" being held in a war zone "half a world away."
Bates said it was "anomalous" for the government to say that those
it "chooses to send to Guantanamo have habeas rights, but those who
the government chooses to send to Bagram don't have habeas rights."
His ruling is still pending, but shortly after Obama took office,
Bates asked the government if it wanted to "refine" its position. In
its reply Friday, the Justice Department said that it "adheres to its
previously articulated position."
The two Pakistanis in the British announcement were not named.
Hutton's statement said he was told by the United States that the two
were members of Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Pakistani extremist group with
ties to al-Qaeda. It also said that "the U.S. government has
explained to us that they were moved to Afghanistan because of a lack
of relevant linguists necessary to interrogate them effectively in
"We have been assured," Hutton said, "that the detainees are held in
a humane, safe and secure environment meeting international
standards" and that the International Committee of the Red Cross has
had regular access to them.
Correspondent Kevin Sullivan in London and staff researcher Julie
Tate contributed to this report.
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
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