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Afghanistan: Amnesty calls for urgent investigation into allegations of war crimes by UK Special Forces

Responding to the BBC investigation of repeated killing of unarmed men in suspicious circumstances in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2011 by the UK Special forces, Zaman Sultani, Amnesty International’s South Asia Researcher, said:

“Amnesty International demands an effective and transparent investigation into the allegations made against the UK Special forces in Afghanistan, that delivers justice for victims and holds the perpetrators accountable.

“The BBC’s findings are horrifying, and clearly depict an alarming level of impunity and lack of accountability of UK troops who operated in Afghanistan. The BBC’s reporting outlines unlawful killings, including deliberate killing of individuals after they were detained, targeting of civilians and fabricating evidence to justify the killing of unarmed men, pointing to potential war crimes having been committed. The suggestion that there’s been a high-level cover-up compounds the moral outrage and suggests an unwillingness on the part of the UK to pursue independent and effective investigations into the allegations.

“The UK is obligated to urgently commence investigations into all allegations of war crimes involving its Special Forces, and any UK nationals who are suspected of individual criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in UK courts. If the UK is unwilling to bring cases against its own military, as it has shamefully demonstrated in relation to war crimes committed by its forces in Iraq, the ICC should do so.

“The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also opened an investigation in Afghanistan and the Prosecutor must urgently investigate, without fear or favour, allegations of war crimes committed by all parties to the conflict as soon as possible. However, despite harrowing reports of war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in Afghanistan by western militaries, including the USA, the ICC has not initiated any investigations, other than into the Taliban – leading to accusations of double standards in its approach.

“This episode also underscores just how damaging any move to remove human rights protections and responsibility from troops operating overseas would be. The UK Government must step away from the reprehensible proposal to replace the Human Rights Act before any more damage is done."

Background:

Today, the BBC published their report on investigation into the role of SAS operatives in Afghanistan who repeatedly killed detainees and unarmed men in suspicious circumstances. The reports suggest that the unit may have unlawfully killed 54 people in one six-month tour.

Since 2001, the UK along with other international forces were in Afghanistan and had been conducting operations against the Taliban for over a decade. The Taliban captured Kabul by 15 August 2021, the Afghan President fled the country, and the last international forces left the country by the end of August. The Taliban now control Afghanistan.

Since 2003 Afghanistan has been a member state of the International Criminal Court, granting jurisdiction to the Court to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, committed on Afghan territory or by its nationals. The UK ratified the Rome Statute in 2001, granting the ICC jurisdiction over UK nationals and territory since 2002.

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