Judge in Afghanistan ‘backstabbed’ by UK government’s refusal of sanctuary | Immigration and asylum


A senior judge who prosecuted terrorists and is now in hiding in Afghanistan feels “heartbroken, abandoned and backstabbed” by the British government for refusing to bring him to safety despite a high court ruling in his favour.

The high-profile judge, whom the Guardian is not naming for his safety, also received strong support from two former independent reviewers of terrorism legislation.

He worked closely with British and American forces to prosecute Taliban, Isis, al-Qaida and Haqqani network terrorists captured in Afghanistan, and is at such high risk that he has to hide in separate locations from the rest of his family, who are also in hiding. He cannot have any direct phone conversations for fear of his location being revealed.

A high court ruling on 1 April this year supported his claim for sanctuary in the UK.

The UK government has accepted that he is at risk in Afghanistan but says he does not meet the policy criteria for being brought to the UK. Officials said his contribution to the UK’s counter-terrorism work in Afghanistan was “minimal” and that because the court where he prosecuted terrorists captured by the allies was an Afghan institution, he was not a direct employee of the British government.

The judge faces having to make a highly dangerous journey to Pakistan to a UK visa-processing center to get his biometrics done for a visa application. However, if the UK government then refuses the visa, he could be deported from Pakistan back to Afghanistan and placed directly in the hands of the Taliban.

The high court ruling from Mrs Justice Lieven states: “I do accept that if it did happen, it would place JZ [anonymised initials used in the ruling] and possibly his family at real and immediate risk of death.”

She added that the UK government had failed to apply discretion to defer biometrics “in a rational manner”.

The former independent reviewers of terrorism legislation Lord Carlile and Lord Anderson wrote to the Home Office on 15 April, urging them to reconsider their decision not to allow the judge to come to the UK.

“The courageous acceptance by judges of the responsibility for incorruptible trial of terrorists … made an important contribution to the lives of Afghans and to international counter-terrorism efforts,” they said in their letter.

In a second case where the government has left Afghans in danger in their home country, an Afghan interpreter who worked for British forces and was badly injured in a Taliban bombing before being relocated to the UK has been trying for eight months to bring his parents and brothers from Afghanistan to safety in Britain.

However, a Ministry of Defense (MoD) letter dated 26 April stated that officials had not yet been able to confirm the eligibility of the man’s family for the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme and urged his supporters not to make the case public.

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The judge in hiding said through an intermediary: “I am shocked by the government’s decision to refuse to relocate me in the UK. I was once considered an ally important, given security due to the imminent threat I faced and awarded certificates of appreciation for making material contribution to the UK and allies’ counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan.

“I do not regret serving justice upon those who killed innocent people including UK government personnel, but I am heartbroken, abandoned and feel backstabbed by the government for refusing to relocate me in the UK. I plead with them to save my life and the lives of my family.”

An MoD spokesperson said officials were unable to comment on individual cases: “We recognize the challenging circumstances faced by Afghans applying to resettle in the UK through the Afghan relocation and assistance policy (Arap) scheme and are processing applications as quickly as possible. To date we have relocated over 9,000 applicants and their dependents to the UK. The scheme remains open and is not time limited, and we are determined to continue with this work.”

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