Afghanistan 'unlawful killings': Taliban can give evidence to inquiry into allegations against British soldiers, judge says

A senior judge has called for evidence relating to allegations of unlawful activity by British armed forces in Afghanistan from anyone - including the Taliban.

Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, who is chairing an independent inquiry, said his team will "do everything in our power to facilitate the receiving and hearing of evidence".

The inquiry is set to examine allegations of unlawful activity by British armed forces during deliberate detention operations (DDO) in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2013.

It stems from two DDOs which occurred in February 2011 and October 2012, when members of the Saifullah and Noorzai families were killed.

For years, both families called for a full investigation into the killings.

Asked what would happen if the Taliban wanted to submit evidence to the inquiry, Sir Charles replied that he would hear from anyone with any evidence.

In 2019 and 2020, the two families launched judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) challenging its failure to properly investigate the circumstance of their relatives' deaths.

During High Court proceedings in the Saifullah case, documents disclosed by the MoD revealed communications between officers in the British army which they say showed widespread knowledge and concerns about the killings: Just hours after the killings, the four deaths were described by one British officer as the "latest massacre!".

In another document, a newly-qualified officer said: "During these operations, it was said that all fighting age males are killed on target regardless of the threat they posed."

A special forces officer said: "I find it depressing that it has come to this… ultimately a massive failure of leadership.

"If we don't believe this, then no one else will and when the next Wikileaks occurs then we will be dragged down with them."

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The families had argued that the MoD documents show that serious and sustained concerns being raised internally, including at the highest levels in the UK headquarters of Special Forces, were not reported to the service police.

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave said: "The allegations which the inquiry has to consider - and they are, I stress, only allegations at this stage - are extremely serious.

"First, that numerous unlawful killings were carried out by some members of the British armed forces during this period.

"Second, that these unlawful killings were covered up to prevent what had taken place ever coming to light.

"And, third, that the lengthy investigations carried out by the Royal Military Police were inadequate.

"It is clearly important that anyone who has broken the law is referred to the relevant authorities for investigations; and equally, those who have done nothing wrong should rightly have the cloud of suspicion lifted from them.

"This is critical, both for the reputation of the armed forces and the country."

The independent statutory inquiry was commissioned by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

A further case management hearing is due to be held on 25 April in London - where a more detailed timetable will be set.