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Action on Armed Violence request for Core Participant Status in the Independent Inquiry Relating to Afghanistan rejected

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has received an official communication on May 12th, 2023, from the Independent Inquiry Relating to Afghanistan regarding AOAV’s request for designation as a core participant process. The inquiry, led by the Chair, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, was instituted to investigate allegations of unlawful activities by British armed forces in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2013.

Regrettably, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave declined AOAV’s application.

The inquiry, set up under the Inquiries Act 2005, is tasked with investigating specific matters: the efficacy of investigations by the Royal Military Police, the credibility of information about unlawful killings by the British armed forces during the stated period, any potential cover-ups of such unlawful killings, and lessons to be learned from these events. In this pursuit, the inquiry invited applications for “Core Participant”, a role that would grant certain privileges and responsibilities in the inquiry process.

AOAV applied for this status. Our organisation, known for its work on armed violence issues in Afghanistan, believed our expertise on civilian harm in the country during the British military’s’ role there could be beneficial to the inquiry. The decision on their application was based on specific criteria stipulated in Rule 5 of the Inquiry Rules 2006, which include factors such as direct involvement, significant interest in the inquiry matters, or potential for significant criticism during the inquiry.

However, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, in his ruling, declined to designate AOAV as a Core Participant. His decision was founded on three reasons. Firstly, he did not see AOAV as meeting the criteria outlined in Rule 5(2) of the Inquiry Rules 2006. He argued that while AOAV has shown interest in the subject matter, it has not played a “direct and significant role” in the related matters, nor does it have a “significant interest in an important aspect of the matters to which the inquiry relates.” Additionally, AOAV is unlikely to be subject to criticism by the inquiry.

Secondly, the Chair emphasized the need to avoid unnecessary costs, implying that designating AOAV as a core participant might add more financial burden than value to the process. Lastly, the Chair did not believe that AOAV’s participation as a core participant would necessarily assist in fulfilling the inquiry’s terms of reference or facilitate its efficient management.

Despite the rejection, the Chair acknowledged the potential contribution of AOAV to the inquiry. He emphasized that an organization does not have to be a Core Participant to assist an inquiry. Instead, they can provide documents, expertise, or appear as a witness. In doing so, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave appears to encourage AOAV to continue their involvement with the inquiry, albeit not as a core participant.

Dr Iain Overton said of the rejection: “We respect the decision by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave regarding our application for Core Participant status. While we’re disappointed, we firmly believe in the inquiry’s objective and its importance for accountability and justice. Action on Armed Violence remains committed to supporting the inquiry, leveraging our expertise on armed violence in Afghanistan. We remain hopeful that our contributions will, in some capacity, assist in the inquiry’s pursuit of truth and justice.”