AOAV: all our reportsIndependent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan

Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan: day 2

Day 2: Institutional Memory Lapse or Inadequate Resources for the RMP Investigation?

The proceedings on Day 2 were initiated by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, who ensured that transcripts from the previous day were available online.

Oliver Glasgow KC: Opening Statement
Oliver Glasgow KC began by summarizing the contemporaneous allegations and investigations of the preceding days. Mr. Glasgow outlined the original terms of reference set by the Provost Martial Army (PMA) for Operation Northmoor, which included five key points. These points covered a wide range of allegations, from criminal to non-criminal conduct, and aimed to identify systemic issues within the investigations.

Operation Northmoor initially focused on detainee mistreatment claims but later expanded its scope to include allegations of unlawful killing by UK soldiers. Mr. Glasgow emphasized that this expansion occurred over two years after the operation’s establishment, with the investigative team growing significantly. Teams were assigned specific roles, and most personnel investigated a substantial number of detainee abuse allegations.

Team 2 was responsible for detainee abuse claims, which numbered over 670 and continued until 2017. Team 1 handled unlawful killing claims related to Objective Tyburn, a special forces operation. Challenges included data recovery from classified servers and the handling of sensitive information.

In 2015, a document surfaced revealing a conversation about targeting and killing fighting-age males, leading to suspicions of unlawful killings.

In 2016, two individuals were designated as suspects, but their arrest plans were changed, and covert tactics were abandoned. A new PM was appointed in July 2016, leading to the engagement of an independent advisory group. By January 2017, the independent review team concluded there was no tangible evidence supporting unlawful killings. The investigation ultimately concluded in 2019 that there was insufficient evidence for prosecution, but concerns remained about interview timing and discrepancies.

The Royal Military Police made significant efforts to obtain server data but faced challenges due to security concerns. The deletion of server data has raised questions, and the Inquiry will investigate whether it was a conspiracy or a technical error.

The RMP claims to have dedicated substantial resources to Operation Northmoor, conducting numerous inquiries, interviews, and document reviews. The absence of arrests or charges does not necessarily indicate failure, and the Inquiry will assess the impact of time on the investigation and the issue of witness memory loss.

Mr. Glasgow referred to the independent review team’s conclusion in April 2019, which praised the senior investigating officer and his team’s professionalism. However, concerns remained about outstanding interviews with the Afghan Protection Unit (APU) and the overall strategy and decision-making of Operation Northmoor.

In conclusion, Mr. Glasgow emphasized the need to base the Inquiry’s findings solely on credible evidence, rather than rumors or speculation. He presented three possible outcomes for the Inquiry, but stressed that only credible information would determine the truth.

Brian Altman: Opening Statement on behalf of the Ministry of Defence

Brian Altman began his opening statement by expressing pride in the UK’s armed forces and their commitment to operating within the boundaries of the law. He reiterated the MOD’s commitment to the Inquiry and cooperation, acknowledging that Operation Northmoor should have started earlier.

Altman highlighted key themes addressed by the MOD, including the reasons for the UK Armed Forces’ presence in Afghanistan, British Army values and standards, the Taliban insurgency, conventional Army procedures, and UK detention policy. He outlined the primary reason for the UK’s presence in Afghanistan from 2010-2013, emphasizing the commitment to Afghan sovereignty and security.

Altman provided insight into the three tiers of insurgent fighters and explained compound clearance procedures. He emphasized that the use of lethal force was authorized only when necessary to prevent an immediate threat to life. He also stressed the responsibility of all personnel to report concerns about detainee handling.

Altman concluded by stating that the MOD is taking the matter seriously, despite the lack of evidence for prosecution. He expressed a commitment to the Inquiry and full cooperation.

Paul Greaney: Opening Statement of the Royal Military Police
Paul Greaney opened his statement by asserting that soldiers on military operations are not above the law. He described the rigorous framework that governs their actions, including domestic criminal law, Service law, the Law of Armed Conflict, and international humanitarian law.

Greaney acknowledged the complexity of investigations into the use of lethal force by British troops in Afghanistan. He explained the limitations faced by the Royal Military Police (RMP), including high-risk environments, resource constraints, and national security concerns. The RMP relies on referrals and allegations to initiate investigations, which can be challenging due to delayed allegations.

Greaney highlighted changes implemented since 2019, including the formation of the Defence Serious Crime Command (DSCC) to improve investigative capabilities. He discussed challenges faced by the RMP, such as untrained photographers and limited opportunities for witness canvassing.

The RMP made several observations, including acknowledging delays in investigations and challenges related to national security. They sought external assurance and established an Independent Review Team (IRT) to provide independent input.

In conclusion, Greaney emphasized the RMP’s commitment to learning from any shortcomings identified by the Inquiry and making necessary improvements. He stressed the importance of considering the operational challenges faced by the RMP during their investigations.