Britain’s Afghan probe investigating UK special forces: minister

LONDON (AFP): Britain’s defence minister on Wednesday said allegations of unlawful killings in Afghanistan being examined by an independent inquiry relate to UK special forces.

The inquiry which opened in March was “now reaching the stage of substantive hearings, and I can confirm that the allegations relate to the conduct of UK Special Forces”, Ben Wallace told parliament in a written statement.

The inquiry is looking at a number of detention operations between 2010 and 2013 and how allegations of wrongdoing were investigated by military police, in particular whether there were any cover-ups.

It is being led by senior judge Charles Haddon-Cave, who has said it is important wrongdoing be “referred to the relevant authorities for investigation” while “those who have done nothing wrong should rightly have the cloud of suspicion lifted from them”.

Haddon-Cave said on Wednesday that he had recently visited the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, although he did not elaborate.

Other countries’ special forces have also faced allegations of unlawful killings in Afghanistan.

In Australia, a 2020 military investigation found special forces personnel “unlawfully killed” 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners, revealing allegations of summary executions, body count competitions and torture by Australian forces.

The British inquiry followed legal challenges to the government by families of eight people including three young boys who were allegedly murdered by UK special forces in two separate incidents during night raids in 2011 and 2012.

“We live in hope that those responsible will one day be held to account,” a member of the Noorzai family, one of the two families involved, said at the time.

“Over 10 years ago I lost two of my brothers, my young brother-in-law and a childhood friend, all boys with a life ahead of them,” he added.

The independent statutory inquiry was commissioned by Wallace under the 2005 Inquiries Act.