UK activist wins part victory in Afghan challenge

LONDON (Reuters) - A peace activist won a partial victory Friday in a court challenge to Britain’s policy of transferring Taliban suspects captured in Afghanistan to local authorities.

Activist Maya Evans had argued that the policy violated international human rights law because it led to abuse of detainees by Afghan security forces.

Judges at the High Court refused to rule the transfer policy unlawful, the Press Association news agency reported.

Instead they considered several Afghan detention centres separately, ruling that a moratorium already in place on transfers to a Kabul prison should remain in force.

Britain has 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, the second biggest foreign contingent after that of the United States.

The judges said there was a real risk that detainees transferred to a detention centre run by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Kabul would be subjected to torture or serious mistreatment. Such transfers would be unlawful, they said.

But transfers could lawfully be made to two other detention centres, in Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the southern province of Helmand, “provided that existing safeguards are strengthened,” they ruled.

Lashkar Gah is the provincial capital of Helmand Province, where the vast majority of Britain’s troops in Afghanistan are stationed.

Evans’s lawyers told the High Court that detainees handed over to the NDS had suffered beatings, electrocution, sleep deprivation, had been forced into stress positions, and undergone whipping with rubber cables.

Michael Fordham, a lawyer for Evans, told the court that handing over suspected insurgents to the NDS violated the European Convention on Human Rights and the U.N. convention against torture.

Evans said she was pleased with the outcome.

“Transfers to Kabul have stopped as a result of this case and transfers to Kandahar and Lashkar Gah are now subject to conditions,” she said.

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Michael Roddy