04:56, November 20 101 0 theguardian.com

2020-11-20 04:56:03
Calls for UK to investigate possible war crimes in Afghanistan

The UK government should establish an independent inquiry to review and investigate any allegation of unlawful killings by British special forces in Afghanistan, the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has said.

The commission made the call after extraordinary allegations of murder and torture of Afghans were uncovered by an exhaustive four-year inquiry into Australian special forces operations in Afghanistan.

The Brereton inquiry uncovered credible evidence of 39 alleged murders of Afghans by 25 Australian special forces soldiers and even raised concerns some deaths had been presented as “bloodings” – a practice where young soldiers were ordered to execute prisoners in order to get their “first kill”.

Reacting to the report, the Kabul-based AIHRC chairperson, Shaharzad Akbar, characterised the findings as evidence that Australian forces had engaged in inhuman acts of violence and brutalisation.

Akbar said the US, UK and other countries with an armed presence in Afghanistan should investigate allegations of acts of violence against Afghan non-combatants, including detainees and civilians.

She singled out the UK armed forces’ role, saying: “In particular, the AIHRC calls on the UK to open an independent inquiry to review and investigate the allegation of unlawful killings by UK special forces.

“Indeed, media reporting, AIHRC’s own reports and reporting by other human rights groups have documented violations of IHL and the law of armed conflict by other countries,’’ she said in a statement released on Thursday.

“Only through a series of independent inquiries will we uncover the true extent of this disregard for Afghan life, which normalised murder, and resulted in war crimes.

“Only through further investigation, documentation, and engagement with victims will victims’ families right to truth and justice be met.”

Australian special forces mostly fought in Uruzgan province but on occasion, were sent on missions to disrupt the Afghan drug trade particularly in Helmand province where British forces operated.

As part of its investigations, the Brereton inquiry liaised with Australia’s coalition partners, including the UK, the US and Canada, and their special forces commands.

Among reasons given for the liaison was to “ascertain whether coalition partners who had conducted or were conducting investigations had encountered any evidence of war crimes by Australian special forces”.

“No misconduct by Australian SF [special forces] was revealed by this liaison, but many lessons which informed the conduct of the inquiry were extrapolated,’’ said the report.

The report recommended 36 of the alleged murder incidents be referred to the Australian federal police for criminal investigation.