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Independent Inquiry relating to AfghanistanAOAV: all our reportsMilitarism examined

Veteran’s minister Mercer given ultimatum in Afghanistan Inquiry

Johnny Mercer, the UK’s Minister for Veterans, faces a looming deadline to disclose the identities of Special Forces whistleblowers who have made serious allegations regarding the unlawful executions of Afghan civilians by the SAS. Mercer has been formally given 10 days, until April 5th, to comply with a Section 21 notice or risk facing legal consequences, including a possible jail sentence or a substantial fine.

This escalation follows Mercer’s refusal to name the soldiers who approached him with claims of atrocities committed in Afghanistan over a decade ago. The former Army captain and Afghanistan veteran cited the vulnerability of his sources as the reason for his silence. However, this stance has led to accusations from Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, the chair of the Afghanistan public inquiry, that Mercer, a prominent Conservative front bencher, is withholding evidence of “significant relevance.”

The inquiry, established to investigate claims of British Special Forces executing Afghan males of fighting age who posed no immediate threat between 2010 and 2013, has stressed the necessity of Mercer’s cooperation. Despite the minister’s resistance, based on a promise of confidentiality to his sources, the inquiry asserts it has robust procedures to protect witness identities and insists on the importance of the information Mercer holds.

If Mercer continues his refusal, the legal implications could be severe. He faces the possibility of being prosecuted by the inquiry in a magistrates’ court, leading to a criminal conviction and up to six months in jail, or being found in contempt in the High Court, where he could be sentenced to up to two years in prison or receive an unlimited fine.

The inquiry’s demand for Mercer to break his silence comes amid broader discussions about the balance between national security, the integrity of the armed forces, and the protection of whistleblowers. As the April 5th deadline approaches, the potential implications for Mercer, the whistleblowers, and the inquiry’s findings remain a focal point of public and political interest.

“In the shadow of conflict, transparency and accountability must serve as the cornerstones of justice. Without them, we risk the integrity of not only our armed forces but also the moral fabric of our society. Whistleblowers, in daring to speak out, uphold these values and deserve our protection and respect,” stated Dr. Iain Overton of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV).