Britain is holding up to 90 people at its main base in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond admitted Wednesday, as lawyers claimed they were possibly being detained unlawfully.
British lawyers representing two of the men being held at Camp Bastion in the southern province of Helmand claim their cases could amount to internment.
Hammond told BBC radio that those being held included people suspected of murdering British troops who will be passed on to the Afghan authorities.
He said Britain would normally expect to be holding around 20 Afghans at Camp Bastion at any one time, but concerns about a particular facility they might be transferred to had created a hold-up in the system.
“These are people suspected of murdering British troops, of facilitating or planting or being involved with IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Hammond said.
“Our attention was drawn to some concerns around one particular Afghan facility. We were unable to obtain cast-iron guarantees that the prisoners that we were transferring wouldn’t be transferred into that facility.
“And so I decided last November that we had to stop transfers until we had sorted that out and got a safe pathway.”
He said he hoped to restart transfers within days.
“That will resolve the conundrum and allow us to get these detainees transferred into an Afghan facility with proper