As MANY as 90 Afghan nationals are being detained in a holding facility at Camp Bastion, the defence secretary admitted yesterday.
Philip Hammond denied that the men were being held illegally, as lawyers have claimed.
Responding to accusations that the facility has been kept secret from the British public, Mr Hammond said: “I’m not going to comment on individual cases. What I will say is that the assertion that this is a secret facility is patently ridiculous.”
Mr Hammond put the figure for the total number of men held “in the high tens, around 80, 90”.
He said that parliamentary archives showed that the government had been transparent about the facility.
Legal documents obtained by the BBC indicated that dozens of suspected insurgents are being held at the base, in what their lawyers claim could amount to unlawful detention and internment. They have also criticised the lack of access they have had to their clients.
Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said the Ministry of Defence has refused them access to their clients and only as a result of legal proceedings have they managed to establish telephone contact.
Mr Hammond dismissed the claims, suggesting the lawyers’ requests would pose a security threat to British troops.
“Let’s be clear what they are asking for. They are asking the court to release these people to turn them back to the battlefield so they can carry on with the activities for which they were detained in the first place, putting British troops and other Isaf [International Security Assistance Force troops] lives at risk,” Mr Hammond said.
Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UK, Mohammad Daud Yaar, said the government should hand over the detainees.
He told said investigators had found “some occasions of torture” in Afghan prisons but it was “not systematic”.