A top-level investigation will be conducted into allegations of illegal killings and a cover-up by British soldiers in Afghanistan.
Dr Andrew Murrison, the defence minister, announced that the independent statutory inquiry, which was commissioned by Ben Wallace, will start in early 2023.
The announcement was welcomed by eight families, including three young boys. It is claimed that the UK Special Forces killed them in two separate incidents in night raids in Afghanistanin 2011.
Lord Justice Haddon Cave, the senior presiding judge in England and Wales, will chair the probe. He is now able to concentrate on the task.
Dr Murrison stated that it would focus in part on claims that any wrongdoing (including murder) were not properly investigated by the Ministry of Defence.
In a statement, Mr Wallace stated that there had been many investigations into the events. However, there were still lessons to be learned. We should consider all possible outcomes to ensure that all allegations are dealt with appropriately and equally, as well as to protect our personnel from any unnecessary reinvestigations.
One member of the Noorzai Family, who lost relatives to Afghanistan, stated that he had lost two of his brothers, my young brother in law and a childhood friend over 10 years ago. All boys with a bright future.
“Shot while you drink tea”
A relative said that she was also handcuffed, beat and interrogated outside her family home by British soldiers.
“My friends and relatives were shot in the heads as they sipped tea.
“My family waited 10 years for the answer.
“We are glad that someone finally decided to investigate this after so many years.
“We hope that the responsible ones will be held accountable.”
Tessa Gregory is a partner at Leigh Day and represents the families. She said that the allegations of extrajudicial killings and cover up were so grave and widespread that it was necessary to launch an inquiry “years ago”.
‘Proud to British service’
Johnny Mercer, the veterans’ affairs minister, wrote to veterans and their families saying that he was aware of the effects of the news on the affected and would provide “full legal, pastoral and financial support” to anyone called up in the inquiry.
He tweeted that he was “intensely proud” of his service in Afghanistan.
Sir Edward Leigh, a former Conservative minister, warned that the bar for prosecutions must remain “very high” or “we will inflict severe damage on the morale to the veterans of our brave and armed forces”.
Investigative report finds that dozens of Afghan children were killed in British military operations.
Former British Army chief calls for assistance to Afghanistan
John Healey, Labour’s shadow defense secretary, stated that allegations of unlawful killings or cover-ups were more serious than they seem. This inquiry is vital to preserve the reputation of British special forces, ensure the integrity of military investigations, and secure justice for all those who have been affected.
“The real question is, will it be able to do the job?” It is set up for success and does the MoD have all the necessary resources to make it successful? Too often, the MoD responds by denial and delay.”
According to the MoD, details of next steps in the inquiry will be provided “in due course”.