UK war crimes probe launches with call for evidence

Lazy eyes listen


On Wednesday, an independent inquiry into alleged illegal killings by the British military in Afghanistan issued a call for evidence. Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, the investigation’s chairman, promised to “do everything in our power” to “get to the bottom” of the scandal.

“I would urge anyone who has any information or material that they believe may be relevant to the inquiry to please get in touch with the inquiry team as soon as possible,” Haddon-Cave said in a statement accompanying the launch of the inquiry’s public website on Wednesday.

Last year, allegations surfaced that UK Special Air Services (SAS) soldiers slaughtered 54 Afghans in Helmand province between 2010 and 2011, committing war crimes.

The investigation is tasked with determining whether special forces or other UK troops were responsible for “numerous” extrajudicial killings between 2010 and 2013, and whether any of those alleged crimes should be prosecuted. It is also tasked with determining whether the Royal Military Police acted properly in its investigation of those crimes, or whether it deliberately sought to cover them up – and “what lessons can be learned” from any deviant behavior.

Haddon-Cave stated in his statement that it is just as important to exonerate the innocent as it is to bring anyone who broke the law to justice, “both for the reputation of the armed forces and the country.”

Investigators have the authority to compel witnesses to appear and documents to be produced. Haddon-Cave, however, declined to directly answer a reporter’s question about whether the committee would take evidence from the Taliban, who returned to power in 2021 but maintained a strong foothold in Helmand even when coalition forces had the national upper hand.

After reviewing “thousands of documents, many of which are highly sensitive,” and holding “background briefings” on British military operations in Afghanistan, Haddon-Cave explained that the probe will begin hearings on specifics, acknowledging that much of the latter will have to be conducted behind closed doors due to the sensitive nature of special forces activities.

The investigation was launched in December after the law firm Leigh Day filed a high court case on behalf of Sayfullah, an Afghan man who claimed his father, two brothers, and cousin were murdered during an SAS raid in southern Afghanistan in February 2011. Later, another suit was filed on behalf of the Noorzai family.