Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

Letter to the Chairman of the Committee from Andrew Tyrie MP


  I am writing further to your Committee's announcement of an oral evidence session with the Secretaries of State for Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, about the Government's policy on Iraq and Afghanistan.

  In a letter to the Defence Committee on 15 May 2008 I set out a number of questions which deserve an answer. I hope that this hearing might be an opportunity for you to ask them. They are:

    —  in which countries, and in which detention facilities, have people captured by British Forces during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and transferred into the custody of US, Afghan, or Iraqi authorities, subsequently been held;

    —  have sufficient follow-up efforts been made to check that individuals transferred into the custody of US, Afghan, or Iraqi authorities were not mistreated in breach of the UK's legal obligations on this issue; and

    —  are the arrangements currently in place to ensure the proper treatment of people transferred into the custody of US, Afghan, or Iraqi authorities, adequate?

  In addition, at least two questions arise from Ben Griffin's specific allegations of inadequate treatment of detainees captured by UK Forces. They are:

    —  has there ever been a formal or informal policy that UK Forces operating within the joint task force referred to by Mr Griffin, would detain or capture individuals but not arrest them. If so, what is the purpose of that policy; and

    —  have the allegations made by Mr Griffin,[163] a former member of UKSF, been properly investigated?

  I attach my letter to the Defence Committee of 15 May 2008,[164] and a note setting out the background to these later questions.

  I have also written to the Chairman of the Defence Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, on this issue. I am placing this letter in the public domain.

27 October 2008



  I am concerned that the arrangements in place to ensure the proper treatment of detainees captured by UK Forces, and subsequently handed over to US, Iraqi, or Afghan forces, may be inadequate.

On 29 September 2008 I published a Legal Opinion on this issue, prepared by Michael Fordham QC and Tom Hickman, barristers at Blackstone Chambers specialising in human rights law. The Opinion makes clear that assurances provided by another state, that an individual handed over by UK forces would not be mistreated, would not absolve the UK government of the obligation to examine whether the assurances provide a sufficient guarantee that the individual will be protected against the risk of ill-treatment. Importantly, the Legal Opinion highlights "specific concerns about the legality of the UK having accepted such assurances" from the US. I have attached the Legal Opinion.

  Your Committee addressed this issue in its Human Rights Report 2007, and concluded that: "the UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the Government does not rely on such assurances in the future".[165] This conclusion also has important implications for the handing over of detainees to US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

163   Statement of Mr Ben Griffin, 25 February 2008,

164   Not published. Back

165   Foreign Affairs Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2007-08, Human Rights Annual Report 2007, HC 533, para 53 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 2 August 2009