UK Judge Ready to Accept Evidence From Taliban During Inquiry to Investigate Unlawful Killings by British Forces


The latest: A senior UK judge has launched an independent inquiry to investigate whether UK military police covered up or did not properly probe allegations of unlawful killings by British armed forces in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2013. However, what’s more shocking is that the judge has called for evidence relating to allegations of unlawful activity by British armed forces in Afghanistan from anyone – including the Taliban.


Go deeper:

  • The Britain’s government ordered the inquiry after lawyers brought legal challenges on behalf of the families of eight Afghans who were allegedly killed by British special forces during nighttime raids in 2011 and 2012.
  • It stems from two deliberate detention operations (DDO) which occurred in February 2011 and October 2012, when members of the Saifullah and Noorzai families were killed.
  • Senior judge Charles Haddon-Cave said that his team would “get to the bottom” of whether investigations carried out by the Royal Military Police were adequate.
  • “It is clearly important that anyone who has broken the law is referred to the relevant authorities for investigation. Equally, those who have done nothing wrong should rightly have the cloud of suspicion lifted from them,” Haddon-Cave said. “This is critical, both for the reputation of the armed forces and the country.”
  • The inquiry into two separate incidents will also review whether the deaths “formed part of a wider pattern of extra-judicial killings by British armed forces in Afghanistan at the time.”
  • Haddon-Cave said many hearings would have to be held behind closed doors for national security reasons.
  • Leigh Day, the law firm representing the families of those killed, has said Ministry of Defence documents showed officers had widespread knowledge about unlawful killings by UK special forces in Afghanistan but did not report the information to military police.
  • Separately, a BBC investigation last year alleged that one SAS unit may have killed dozens of people, including unarmed civilians, in Helmand province from 2010 to 2011 during “kill or capture” raids to detain Taliban commanders and disrupt bomb-making networks.
  • At the time, defence officials rejected the report as incorrect and said investigators had already looked at the alleged misconduct and found insufficient evidence to prosecute.
  • The inquiry will also seek to determine whether the circumstances of alleged extrajudicial killings were covered up at any stage and what lessons can be learned.


Back story: Thousands of British troops were deployed to Afghanistan as part of a two-decade-long NATO-led campaign in the country following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

  • Many British soldiers engaged in heavy fighting with insurgents in southern Helmand province.
  • Britain ended all combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, although a small number of troops stayed to train Afghan security forces until 2021, when the international coalition withdrew from the country.
  • A high court case brought by the law firm Leigh Day on behalf of one man, Saifullah, alleged that his father, two brothers and a cousin were killed during an SAS raid on a compound in southern Afghanistan in February 2011.
  • During High Court proceedings in the Saifullah case, documents disclosed by the MoD revealed communications between officers in the British army which they say showed widespread knowledge and concerns about the killings: Just hours after the killings, the four deaths were described by one British officer as the “latest massacre!”.
  • In another document, a newly-qualified officer said: “During these operations, it was said that all fighting age males are killed on target regardless of the threat they posed.”



Zoom out: This comes even as the British Foreign Office has called the security situation in Afghanistan extremely volatile and said that there is a risk of terrorist attacks in various neighbourhoods, including around the airfield and religious sites during Ramadan.

  • In a statement released on Wednesday, the ministry warned British citizens not to travel to Afghanistan. It also said that the risk of detaining its citizens in Afghanistan was high.
  • The ministry has warned British citizens that there are currently no British consular officials in Afghanistan and that the British Foreign Office’s ability to provide consular assistance is severely limited.
  • The ministry’s announcement also states that if British citizens are detained in Afghanistan, they may remain in detention for a long time and the Foreign Office will not be informed and there is no guarantee that they will be able to contact their families.
  • The British Foreign Office has advised its citizens not to approach public gatherings and events, including religious ceremonies, and to take precautions if they travel to Afghanistan.
  • In June last year, five British citizens had been released from Taliban custody.
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