UK special forces face war crimes inquiry over alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed that UK Special Forces are at the center of a war crimes inquiry into alleged unlawful killings in Afghanistan.

The inquiry, which is being led by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, is examining allegations that Special Forces personnel killed 54 people in suspicious circumstances in one six-month tour in 2010 and 2011.

According to the BBC, the UK Defence Minister, Ben Wallace, ahead of the inquiry hearings said: “The inquiry is now reaching the stage of substantive hearings, and I can confirm that the allegations relate to the conduct of UK Special Forces.”

The MoD had previously argued that the inquiry should restrict from the public any evidence or documents that could confirm or deny the involvement of UK special forces in the operations under scrutiny.

However, the MoD has now abandoned this position and said that evidence of involvement of UK Special Forces in the alleged unlawful killings can be discussed openly in the inquiry hearings and reported publicly.

The MoD is still pursuing a request for all special forces personnel involved in the operations in Afghanistan to automatically be granted anonymity, and for all witness evidence about the operations themselves to be held in closed hearings, away from both the bereaved families and the public.

Lawyers for the families of Afghans killed in seven separate special forces operations argue that the overall restrictions being sought by the MoD are “unjustifiable and seriously damaging to the credibility of the inquiry”.

The inquiry is expected to hear evidence from a range of witnesses, including special forces personnel, Afghan civilians, and military investigators.

The chair of the inquiry, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, has said that he wants to hear as much evidence as possible in public, but that some evidence may need to be heard in closed hearings because of national security concerns.

The inquiry is due to report its findings in 2024.