Afghanistan inquiry: Why was it commissioned and what will it involve?

UK special forces are accused of unlawful “massacres” during night raids in Afghanistan.

Here, the PA news agency looks at why the inquiry relating to unlawful killings in the war-torn nation has been commissioned and what it will involve.

– Who commissioned the inquiry?

The independent statutory inquiry was commissioned by then-defence secretary Ben Wallace under the Inquiries Act 2005.

– Why was the inquiry commissioned?

The probe was commissioned in the wake of legal challenges from Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of the Saifullah and Noorzai families, as well as notable media investigations from BBC Panorama and The Sunday Times newspaper.

Afghanistan inquiry
Chair of the Afghanistan Inquiry Sir Charles Haddon-Cave arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The Saifullah and Noorzai families brought judicial review proceedings against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2019 and 2020, which challenged the MoD’s failure to investigate the deaths of members of their families during night raids.

– Which matters are the inquiry tasked with examining?

The probe will look at whether Royal Military Police investigations were effectively and properly conducted, whether there is credible information that unlawful killings were carried out by UK special forces, whether any unlawful killings were covered up at any stage, and what lessons can be learned.

– What time frame will the inquiry look at?

The inquiry will look at incidents between mid-2010 and mid-2013.

– Which Royal Military Police investigations are being scrutinised?

Operation Northmoor and Operation Cestro will be scrutinised by the inquiry – both of which looked into alleged unlawful executions by special forces during night raids in Afghanistan.

– How many night raids were referenced in counsel to the inquiry’s opening submissions?

Oliver Glasgow KC detailed seven separate night raids which resulted in 36 deaths.

– Why might some inquiry hearings be held in private?

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave said many hearings would have to be held in private due to “reasons to do with national security” that are “highly sensitive”.

– What will happen if the inquiry finds evidence of unlawful activity?

The inquiry’s chairman said anyone found to have broken the law should be “referred to the relevant authorities for investigation”.

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