Inquiry into SAS conduct in Afghanistan launched
On 15 December 2022, a statutory public inquiry was announced by Andrew Murrison, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, into allegations of wrongdoing by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan during the course of the British occupation and their subsequent investigation.
What is the background to this announcement?
The conduct of the British armed forces during the invasion and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan has long been the subject of intense controversy. It was though a shocking Panorama program in July of this year that shone the light on specific allegations of unlawful killings of Afghan civilians and combatants hors de combat carried out by SAS soldiers and the alleged coverup by the SAS establishment in the years that followed. The focus of the Panorama program has also been the subject of judicial review proceedings originally brought in 2019 and 2020 by two Afghan families. The Saifullah and Noorzai families allege that their loved ones were killed by SAS forces in Helmand Province in 2011 and 2012.
A similar inquiry conducted in Australia found that between 2005 and 2016 the Australian Special Forces unlawfully killed multiple civilians or combatants hors de combat intentionally, and in some cases attempted to cover the murders up, including by planting weapons at the scene.
Who is chairing the Inquiry?
The Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan will be chaired by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave.
What is the scope of the Inquiry?
The Terms of Reference have been announced by the Government. In summary, the inquiry will explore:
- Whether extra-judicial killings were carried out by British armed forces during operations in Afghanistan in the period from mid-2010 to mid-2013.
- Whether the investigations carried out by the Royal Military Police into allegations of extra-judicial killings were conducted properly, thoroughly and effectively.
- Whether the circumstances of any such extra-judicial killings were covered up by the British Army or the Ministry of Defence.
- What, if any, lessons need to be learned.
At Saunders Law, we welcome the announcement of this statutory public inquiry. The conduct of British troops in wars overseas has long been shrouded in secrecy, but credible allegations of war crimes have routinely been made. We have seen successive British governments fail in their duty to investigate such allegations adequately and so we see the announcement of this public inquiry as an important step in the pursuit of justice an accountability.
At Saunders Law, we have a dedicated expert team specialising in public inquiries who have been instructed to act on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, Infected Blood Inquiry, Undercover Policing Inquiry and the upcoming Covid-19 Inquiry.