Today, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court reaffirms the importance of the ancient common law writ of habeas corpus.
Mr Rahmatullah, was captured by UK forces in Iraq and handed over to US forces in 2004, in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and the US governing the transfer of prisoners. He was detained at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, where he continues to be held today. The Court of Appeal granted a writ of habeas corpus in 2011, which required the Foreign Secretary to write to the US Government requesting information about his continued detention. Although the Court of Appeal discharged the writ after diplomatic exchanges between the UK and the US, the Supreme Court was asked by the Government to rule that the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction to act at all.
JUSTICE intervened as a third party in this case, in favour of an interpretation of the law which would allow our domestic courts – on a case-by-case basis – to explore the degree of control which the UK in fact exercises over persons detained overseas, subject to our international legal obligations and the diplomatic commitments made in assurances from other States and memoranda of understanding.