Emails disclosed by lawyers for two families of victims suggested police told to ignore role of senior officers
“Political pressure” was applied in 2016 to narrow the focus of a military police investigation into allegations of summary killings by SAS soldiers in Afghanistan, according to a legal claim made in the high court on Tuesday.
An email disclosed to lawyers representing two families of Afghans killed by the SAS showed that the second in charge of the unit investigating the alleged war crimes, had told colleagues about demands being made from higher up.
An SAS officer, discussing the Saifullah family case in an email dated May 2011, asked whether there was an opportunity “to ‘nip’ this allegation before it becomes an official allegation and is fed into either the national or Isaf chain of commands in Kabul, attracting lots of scrutiny”.
Concern about the SAS tactics, techniques and procedures in Afghanistan were raised in 2011 by an external organisation, whose identity the MoD wants to keep secret, which warned that the British soldiers were using unlawful techniques to kill Afghans in cold blood.
Neil Sheldon QC, for the MoD, told the court that the government wanted disclosure of the organisation’s full evidence and name to be prevented by a public interest immunity certificate. The application, he said, was being made on “international relations grounds”.
The chief MoD lawyer acknowledged in an email sent in the run up to a previous hearing in early 2020 that the SAS explanations for the summary killings in 2011 “appear highly questionable, if not implausible, not helped by the practice of post-mission ‘cut and paste’ statements” and that the MoD should “review all incidents involving fatalities”.
His deputy suggested in another email that the UK should investigate “the conduct” of UK armed forces in Afghanistan and “the investigative and prosecutorial response of the RMP [Royal Military Police] and the SPA [Service Prosecuting Authority]”. Continue reading...