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Johnny Mercer and the Afghanistan war

<span>Johnny Mercer, the minister for veterans’ affairs. ‘If these egregious parts of the bill had passed into law, this might well have prevented the prosecution of the alleged crimes being reported to him,’ writes Lt Col Rev Nicholas Mercer.</span><span>Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images</span>
Johnny Mercer, the minister for veterans’ affairs. ‘If these egregious parts of the bill had passed into law, this might well have prevented the prosecution of the alleged crimes being reported to him,’ writes Lt Col Rev Nicholas Mercer.Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

I read with interest your report on Johnny Mercer MP’s appearance at the independent inquiry relating to events in Afghanistan (UK minister says he ‘cannot disprove’ claims Afghans were unlawfully killed, 20 February).

I note from your article that, while the minister was being provided with reports into alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan, he was, at the same time, “campaigning to halt a wave of largely false claims of abuse conducted by British soldiers in Iraq”.

With regard to these “false claims”, it is worth reminding ourselves that Mercer was unable to cite a single “vexatious” case when questioned by the human rights committee in the House of Commons about this matter.

If this was not serious enough, it now appears that Mercer was campaigning against so-called “vexatious” claims when, at the same time, he was aware of reports of extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan.

He was also in charge of steering the overseas operations bill through the House of Commons, which sought to reduce the liability of UK forces from facing war crimes trials by introducing a statute of limitations and other bars to prosecution.

If these egregious parts of the bill had passed into law, this might well have prevented the prosecution of the alleged crimes being reported to him.

I should just add that this entire chapter has been accompanied by a wholesale attack on those lawyers who had the courage to take on such cases. Perhaps, as the inquiry chair remarked, Mercer might like to think a bit harder about integrity and where it lies in these matters?
Lt Col Rev Nicholas Mercer
Rector, Bolton Abbey; command legal adviser, HQ 1st UK Armoured Division, Iraq war, 2003