Government ministers will commence an inquiry into allegations that Special Air Service (SAS) soldiers murdered multiple unarmed civilians on night raids in Afghanistan. The inquiry comes after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) held an independent review into the handling of an allegation that an SAS unit executed 54 civilians on one tour.
Defence minister Andrew Murrison stated the inquiry would ‘investigate and report on alleged unlawful activity by British Armed Forces.’ It will also scrutinise the ‘adequacy of subsequent investigations into such allegations.’ This came a day after the BBC published an investigation into a British special forces’ killing of two young parents and wounding their two infants. The special forces command never referred the incident to military police and it was never investigated.
The inquiry will focus on the Deliberate Detention Operations (DDOs), a special forces raid between 2010 and 2013. Murrison’s statement mentioned two cases brought against the MoD by family members of those killed in DDO raids.
The statutory powers of the inquiry will compel witnesses to give evidence, and expands its scope beyond the review proposed by the MoD. Deputy senior presiding judge Lord Justice Haddon-Cave will chair the inquiry.
‘I did not ever think this would happen,’ said a member of the Saifullah family who lost four family members to assassinations by British forces. ‘I am extremely happy that there are people who value the loss of life of my family, of Afghans, enough to investigate,’ he added. Another family waited 10 years for answers as to what happened to their deceased members.
Shadow defence secretary John Haley told the BBC that ‘too often, the MoD responds with denial and delay,’ and questioned whether it was ‘fully committed’ to the inquiry’s success. ‘Allegations of unlawful killings and cover ups could not be more serious,’ and the inquiry is ‘essential to…secure justice for any of those affected,’ he added.
Previous investigations by the MoD did not find enough evidence to commence prosecutions, but recent court documents revealed significant concerns within the Armed Forces that Royal Military Police failed to properly investigate.
The inquiry is set to begin in early 2023.