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Accountability and accusations of serious misconduct: who will address the allegations against General Gwyn Jenkins?

General Gwyn Jenkins, a former colonel in the UK Special Forces, faces serious allegations of hiding evidence of extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan, as reported by BBC Panorama. The broader accusations involve SAS soldiers executing handcuffed detainees, and the specific ones levied at General Jenkins allegedly involve filing these reports in a classified dossier.

In so doing, it raises the questions: did General Jenkins bypass the required military police notification and, if true, did he prevent justice being served and – also – permit future harm to occur?

At the moment, an Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan, led by Lord Justice Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, is tasked with investigating alleged unlawful activities by UK Special Forces during the British military’s time in that war torn nation.

However, it’s important to note that the inquiry doesn’t possess the power to order arrests or directly prosecute. Its role is more investigative and recommendatory.

Given the severity of the accusations, AOAV wrote to Col Sarah Pringle-Smith, the Provost Marshal of the Army, asking if her unit was going to investigate the allegations against General Jenkins. She replied saying that the ‘Defence Serious Crime Command (DSCC) is aware of your request and has the lead for investigation of serious crime. As such it would be more appropriate for the DSCC to address your points.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) press office – when asked if DSCC were investigating the allegations against General Jenkins, said “it is not appropriate for us to comment on allegations which may be within the scope of the Statutory Inquiry, or speculate on outcomes.”

So the ball has been kicked from the Royal Military Police to the Defence Serious Crime Command and now back to the inquiry. This is of concern.

The allegations against General Jenkins, if true, could amount to a violation of the Armed Forces Act 2006, as well as breaching international laws governing war and military conduct. The allegation of a seeming ‘cover up’, if true, raises serious questions about the ethical and legal standards within the Special Forces.

The MoD appears to be holding the position that it is not looking into the allegations against General Jenkins at the present. “It is up to the Statutory Inquiry Team, led by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, in consultation with the DSCC, to determine which allegations are investigated,” the MoD told AOAV.

The Inquiry appeared to disagree about the consultation bit: “The DSCC have no decision making powers as to what we investigate,” they told AOAV. The Inquiry Team also said it is not the Inquiry’s job to decide if anyone has committed an offence.

Rather, the inquiry said they “will determine whether there is ‘credible information’ that unlawful killings took place and may recommend further investigations are carried out by an appropriate authority.”

They do not note, however, if their task is also to address allegations of perverting the course of justice.

What they did say was that “one of the key decisions the Chair of the Inquiry will need to take, in the event he decides there are credible allegations of EJK, is who he will refer it to,” they state. “That may well not be the MoD (eg it could be the Metropolitan Police, or he may propose a new type of body as has happened in Australia).  These decisions are kept under review.”

Furthermore, allegations of concealing evidence might fall under the inquiry’s remit.

“It’s solely up to the Chair to decide which matters the Inquiry look in to,” they note. “The RMP/DSCC have no decision making powers in that regard.  Any allegations that occur outside the Inquiry’s remit could be acted upon by relevant authorities (but of course, it would depend on what they were).”

In other words, the MoD are not interviewing General Jenkins, but it could be that Lord Justice Sir Charles Haddon-Cave decides the allegations against the General are serious enough to ask an authority outside the MoD to look at, and that justice may be served in this way.

At the moment the allegations – made so public by the BBC – are as yet unresolved. This bring to mind the old saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ Either to clear General Jenkins’ good name or to hold him to account for any law he may have broken.

Delay in resolving such serious allegations can erode public trust in military and legal institutions. It risks the perception that high-ranking officials are beyond the reach of law, potentially leading to a sentiment where justice delayed is perceived as justice denied. As such, the question of if and when General Jenkins is held accountable hinges on the inquiry’s findings and subsequent actions by relevant authorities. However, the current inquiry’s limitations and procedural delays could impede swift justice, leading to broader implications for trust in military justice systems.

AOAV believes that, in cases like these, where the stakes are high and the eyes of the public are watchful, the balance between thorough investigation and timely justice becomes crucial. The delay in such a high-profile case not only questions the efficiency of military justice but also risks diminishing the faith of the public in our institutions.