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Militarism examinedKilling in the ShadowsUK Special Forces

AOAV welcomes government announcement of inquiry into allegations SAS killed Afghan civilians

AOAV applauds the fact that UK ministers have announced an inquiry into allegations SAS soldiers murdered scores of unarmed people during night raids in Afghanistan

On the 15 December 2022, UK Defence minister Andrew Murrison declared that the inquiry would have statutory powers to compel witnesses to give evidence. This appears to be a backtrack from previous government statements, where the Ministry of Defence (MOD) had previously claimed a review would only examine the way the allegations had been handled.

This announcement follows a parallel investigation by AOAV and BBC Panorama, in July, that an SAS unit had killed as many as 54 Afghans in suspicious circumstances.

Mr Murrison’s statement to Parliament came a day after the BBC published a follow-up investigation into a 2012 raid, on which British special forces killed four people – including a woman – and shot two infant boys.

Murrison said the inquiry would “investigate and report on alleged unlawful activity by British Armed Forces” and “the adequacy of subsequent investigations into such allegations”.

The inquiry is to look specifically at British special forces raids, known as Deliberate Detention Operations (DDOs), between mid-2010 and mid-2013.

This announcement of an independent statutory inquiry – in contrast to the review previously proposed by the government – expands the scope and powers available to the judge leading it.

The inquiry is to be chaired by Lord Justice Hadden Cave.

Murrison referenced two cases brought against the Ministry of Defence by family members of people killed in DDO raids.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said there had already been “several comprehensive investigations into the events in question. If there are further lessons to learn, it is right that we consider those fully to ensure all allegations are handled appropriately and in equal measure to ensure our personnel are adequately protected from unnecessary reinvestigations.”

Labour’s shadow defence secretary, John Healey, told the BBC he welcomed the special inquiry, saying it was “essential to protect the reputation of our British special forces, guarantee the integrity of military investigations, and secure justice for any of those affected”.

Speaking in the Commons, he said the “allegations of unlawful killings and cover ups could not be more serious” and questioned whether the MoD was “fully committed” to making the inquiry succeed.

“Too often, the MoD responds with denial and delay,” he said.

The Royal Military Police (RMP), which investigates misconduct by the Armed Forces, undertook several investigations between 2010 and 2019 into allegations that UK Special Forces murdered unarmed people, including children, in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence said the investigations had not found enough evidence to prosecute anyone Documents cited in court earlier this year revealed there were significant concerns within the Armed Forces that a number of the RMP investigations were flawed.

The minister said the inquiry would “begin in earnest” in early 2023.