Yunus Rahmatullah: the US and UK caught committing a crime together
A UK supreme court ruling on the unlawful detention of Yunus Rahmatullah exposes the complicity of Britain with the US
Clive Stafford Smith
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 31 October 2012 17.59 GMT
The UK supreme court has ruled that the detention of Yunus Rahmatullah is unlawful. Wednesday’s decision by the UK supreme court in the case of Yunus Rahmatullah, a man detained by the British in Iraq, might seem to be about the hallowed writ of habeas corpus. In truth, its main significance may lie elsewhere. The court identifies this as the first instance in 150 years where the US has “dishonoured” an international agreement with the UK. As the US has given similar assurances in a spate of extradition cases in recent years, Britain must unfortunately ask the question: is the United States to be trusted?
Rahmatullah, along with Amanatullah Ali, was detained in Iraq by British forces in February 2004. They were turned over to the US pursuant to a 2003 memorandum of understanding (MoU) that gave the UK the right to demand their return if there was any violation of their Geneva convention rights. Ali had been erroneously identified – by the British and later by the US – as a man called Ahmad Dilshan, the leader of a Sunni extremist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba. This was simply fatuous. Ali is a Shia rice farmer and therefore could not have been a member of LET, let alone its emir. He had a perfectly innocent reason for being in Iraq, as the Shia holy sites there were accessible for the first time in many years after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Rahmatullah likewise denies being a member of LET, and no evidence has been produced to prove otherwise. Indeed, he was cleared for release by the US two years ago, reflecting a finding that he was no threat to anyone.
The supreme court has ruled that the UK violated the Geneva conventions in various ways – it is, justices wrote, an “extreme” case. Rahmatullah should have been set free “years ago”. The MoU provided that the US would return Rahmatullah to the UK upon demand, and the UK was bound to make that demand given the violations of Geneva.
The UK government represented to the court that such a demand would be futile, because the US would not comply. The court was nonplussed by this argument. An MoU is “a well-established and much used tool of international relations”. A nation – particularly a “mature democracy” such as the US – is not at liberty simply to ignore its commitment. Indeed, the court noted, the UK and the US have entered into many such arrangements in the past 150 years. “Over this period” – until today – “there was no instance of any assurance having been dishonoured.” ..
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