UK to Investigate if Elite Forces Killed Afghan Civilians

    UK to Investigate if Elite Forces Killed Afghan Civilians
    Last updated Dec 16, 2022
    Image credit: AFP/Getty Images [via The Times]


    • The UK's defense ministry announced Thursday that a statutory inquiry headed by senior judge Charles Haddon-Cave will start early next year into allegations of unlawful killings by the elite Special Air Service (SAS) corps in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2013.[1]
    • Speaking to the House of Commons, minister for defense people Andrew Murrison stated the Ministry would concede to longstanding demands for an "independent statutory inquiry" into reports that British troops killed Afghan civilians in cold blood.[2]
    • He added that the probe will also focus on the "adequacy of subsequent investigations" by the Ministry of Defense into allegations of wrongdoing including murder, citing that "two ongoing judicial review cases" have informed this decision.[3]
    • This comes a day after the BBC published a follow-up investigation into a 2012 raid. In that incident, British special forces reportedly killed four people, including a woman, and shot two infants.[4]
    • The Royal Military Police, who wasn't informed at the time, is currently reviewing this incident after the BBC's findings.[5]
    • In July, BBC television's Panorama program reported that alleged SAS soldiers had killed 54 people in suspicious circumstances during night raids related to deliberate detention operations in Afghanistan.[6]


    Establishment-critical narrative

    The announcement of this inquiry may give some hope to the mourning families of those killed by the SAS unit, but it is very unlikely that these war criminals will be held accountable. The controversial Overseas Operation Act virtually bars war crimes prosecution of British troops, especially for any allegations over five years old. This is a failure of the British military and institutions.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    This probe reinforces that UK's armed forces must comply with the highest possible operational standards. However, the bar for prosecutions must be very high so as not to inflict a severe blow on the morale of British veterans. This probe could very well join several others regarding allegations of misconduct — each failing to find enough evidence for prosecutions.

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