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AOAV: all our reportsIndependent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan

Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan: day 1

Ensuring Accountability in Armed Conflict

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave initiated the inquiry expressing appreciation for its commencement, signifying a crucial milestone where evidence is presented, and the ‘wall of silence’ surrounding victims’ families begins to crumble. The primary expectation of the victims’ families is the revelation of truth through this inquiry, ensuring that justice prevails.

Scope of the Inquiry:

The Inquiry is focused on:

  1. Investigating alleged extrajudicial killings by British Special Forces in Afghanistan (2010-2013).
  2. Examining accusations of cover-up.
  3. Assessing the adequacy of the five-year inquiry conducted by the Royal Military Police.

Lord Justice acknowledged the support from Senior Military officials and reminded that the UK is a founding signatory of the Geneva Conventions.

Purpose:

The Inquiry aims to scrutinize and report any unlawful activities by UK Special Forces during deliberate detention operations (DDO) in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2013. It will also review concerns related to reported fatalities, raised within and towards the UK Special Forces and Ministry of Defence during this timeframe.

Opening Statements:

Oliver Glasgow KC emphasised that the Inquiry extends beyond investigating killings; it should exemplify the UK’s commitment to maintaining high standards of conduct, adhering to moral codes, and international law. He assured a thorough and fair investigation process, where witnesses would elucidate the British army’s values, detention policies, and the alleged culture of killing fighting-age Afghan males within UK Special Forces. The Inquiry pledges to utilize all available powers to unveil the truth, prosecuting anyone attempting to obstruct the process.

Presented Cases:

Oliver Glasgow KC presented seven cases, examples of DDO where alleged civilians, including children, were killed, starting with November 30, 2010, when eight men were shot dead, and ending with the killing of a married couple, on August 7, 2012, and the injury of their sleeping children.

In other incidents he described, children aged 12, 14, 15 and 16 lost their lives, as UK Special Forces claimed to have acted in ‘self-defence’.

Graphic photos of the bloodied corpses were shown to the court, showing the position of the bodies, as well as the position of weapons that, it was alleged, were carried by the victims. The families insist that the dead men and boys (some of them with their hands still tied) were unarmed and that the ‘evidence’ was fabricated in order to support claims of lawful killings is self-defence.

Evidence Review:

Evidence presented on day 1 included documents demonstrating the desire to deal with complaints and concerns that were raised at the lowest possible level. Email exchanges presented showed not only reluctance to carry out thorough investigations, but also fear of another WikiLeaks scandal. Serious incident reports from that period stated that there was no evidence to suggest that there had been a breach of Rules of Engagement or conduct, and that the force used was proportionate and justified. The operations were described as ‘successful’.

Conclusion:

Oliver Glasgow KC raised questions about the effectiveness of RMP’s investigations into Operations Northmoor and Cestro. He noted a recurring pattern where Afghan males, typically family heads, were shot after supposedly picking up weapons hidden in various locations within buildings. The Day 1 session concluded with these critical observations, leaving attendees contemplative as they exited the Royal Courts of Justice.

Recommendations:

AOAV’s investigation suggests enhancing independent oversight of the UKSF. AOAV advocates for the establishment of a parliamentary committee assigned to supervise Britain’s Special Forces deployment. Furthermore, AOAV recommends publishing an annual report listing all civilian casualties resulting from UK military engagements, both domestic and international.

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For 20 years Dr Lily Hamourtziadou has researched and taught international politics and security. She is principal researcher for leading NGO Iraq Body Count, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Lily’s works contributes to peace efforts and humanitarian causes, increases awareness and understanding of world politics.