British Special Air Services (SAS) troops are facing allegations that they may have killed dozens of unarmed Afghan civilians as part of their operations in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013. Lawyers representing the families of the victims have presented evidence to a public inquiry panel, claiming that SAS soldiers targeted “all fighting-age males” during their raids on homes in the country.
The London-based law firm Leigh Day has submitted fresh claims, detailing at least 30 suspicious incidents that resulted in the deaths of over 80 Afghans. These incidents allegedly involved the unlawful and extrajudicial killings of young Afghan males, regardless of the threat they posed. In fact, one soldier is said to have personally killed 35 Afghans during a six-month deployment.
While the killings were often justified by claims that the victims were armed, it has been highlighted that in some cases, more people were shot dead than weapons were found. Senior officers had expressed concerns at the time about UK troops showing a “casual disregard for life.” However, these concerns were reportedly ignored, and military authorities engaged in a wide-ranging cover-up to conceal the alleged war crimes.
The public inquiry into these allegations of war crimes by UK forces in Afghanistan was launched in December, led by Lord Justice Haddon-Cave. In March, he called for evidence from all interested parties, prompting Leigh Day to submit the fresh claims they had gathered.
The raids on Afghan compounds were primarily carried out in search of Taliban fighters, often under the cover of darkness, during the UK’s deployments to Helmand province. Previous reports suggested that a single SAS unit may have been responsible for 54 killings. However, according to the lawyers representing the families, there is now evidence to suggest that multiple troops were involved over a longer period of time than previously thought.
It is also worth noting that an investigation by military police in 2019 concluded that there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. However, the lawyers claim that the special forces headquarters allegedly deleted important data shortly before the police arrived to examine possible evidence. This action, they argue, was in direct violation of the investigators’ order not to erase any material stored on their servers.
The allegations of unlawful killings and the subsequent cover-up have sparked outrage and calls for accountability. The public inquiry panel will carefully examine the evidence presented and determine the truth behind these troubling accusations. The inquiry aims to shed light on the actions of the SAS troops in Afghanistan and provide justice for the victims and their families.
As the investigation unfolds, it is essential to remember the importance of upholding the principles of international law and ensuring that those responsible for any wrongdoing are held accountable. The outcome of this inquiry will not only have significant implications for the reputation of the UK’s armed forces but also for the pursuit of justice and the protection of human rights worldwide.