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Indian Case Summary

Mohammed and others (Respondents) vs Ministry of Defence (Appellant). on 17 January, 2017 – Case Summary

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In the case of Mohammed and others (Respondents) vs Ministry of Defence (Appellant) on 17 January 2017, a series of important legal points were raised, which were primarily concerned with the alleged wrongful detention or mistreatment of individuals by British or American troops during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The litigation was managed by Leggatt J, and the points of law were decided mainly on the basis of assumed facts.

The case involved several respondents, including Mr. Rahmatullah, a Pakistani national who was captured by British forces in Iraq on 28 February 2004 and transferred to a US detention facility in Afghanistan, where he remained until his release on 15 May 2014. He sued the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, alleging wrongful treatment by the UK and complicity in his detention and treatment by the US. The UK government raised the defences of state immunity and foreign act of state.

Another respondent, Mr. Serdar Mohammed, an Afghan national, was captured during an operation targeting a senior Taliban commander on 7 April 2010. He was detained by British troops until 25 July 2010 when he was transferred into Afghan custody. He was subsequently tried, convicted, and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment for offences relating to the insurgency in Afghanistan. He claimed that his detention was unlawful under both Afghan law and the UK Human Rights Act 1998.

The case also involved a large number of Iraqi citizens who made claims similar to those of Mr. Rahmatullah in respect of their detention and treatment by UK troops and transfer to the US authorities at various times during the UK’s military presence in Iraq.

The case revolved around the doctrine of Crown act of state, which is a principle of non-justiciability that certain acts committed by a sovereign state are not susceptible to adjudication in the courts. The UK Government argued that the doctrine of Crown act of state covers two distinct principles: a principle of non-justiciability and a defence to an action in tort. The respondent claimants, on the other hand, argued that there is only the first rule, a narrow rule of non-justiciability whereby certain acts of government in the conduct of foreign affairs are by their very nature not justiciable in the courts.

The court’s observations and rulings in this case have significant implications for the legal understanding of the doctrine of Crown act of state, the rights of individuals detained during conflicts, and the accountability of the UK government in its conduct of foreign military operations.