Former Taliban torturer allowed to remain in UK

British government accepts return to Afghanistan presents a real risk that former commander will be tortured

A Taliban fighter stands guard in Kabul. AFP

A former Taliban commander involved in waterboarding and beating prisoners has been allowed to stay in the UK because of the risk he will be tortured on his return to Afghanistan.

The 42-year-old — identified only as MS in court documents — was recruited by the Taliban as a child and went on to lead up to 300 men involved in beating prisoners who criticised the group or sparked inter-factional fighting.

The former commander ordered them to carry out waterboarding, deprive prisoners of sleep and to whip them with metal aerials and cables, according to his own account.

He later changed his story to say he was not involved “personally” in beating people 10-15 times but a UK judge found that his denials were not credible.

A UK immigration tribunal heard that he had complex mental problems after being imprisoned by the Northern Alliance and tortured in the 1990s. On his release he rejoined the Taliban because he thought they could bring order to his country.

But he fled to the UK in 2006 and tried to seek protection, claiming he was the target of a blood feud. His claim was rejected and he was returned to Afghanistan within months.

He tried again in 2010, after returning to the UK via Pakistan, when his claim was again refused and he absconded for a short time the following year.

The former commander only revealed his role in torture during interviews in 2013 and 2015 as part of further asylum claims. In 2013 he “was asked a straightforward question and he stated that waterboarding and sleep deprivation was being used,” court documents show.

In 2015, he said that “people were whipped with metal aerials and cables and that no one could 'endure the cable of the Taliban’.” He reversed his views in 2021 when he said in a statement: “I never meant to say I personally hit anyone with a cable. I was under interview pressure.”

The man has been allowed to stay in the UK under its “restricted leave” policy for those who would normally be deported. Government guidance says restricted leave should “be used sparingly”, is temporary, and subject to regular review.

But the Home Office accepted the former Taliban commander cannot currently be returned to Afghanistan because he faces a “real risk” of torture, according to a ruling last month. The UK has signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes a right of protection from torture and inhuman treatment.

Updated: April 04, 2022, 6:44 PM