British army accused of war crimes in Afghanistan

British army accused of war crimes in Afghanistan

They are supposed to be the elite of the British Army. However, a unit of the Special Air Service (SAS), the British special forces, killed around fifty Afghans in suspicious circumstances, reports the BBC, Tuesday July 12.

The investigation identified fifty-four people shot and killed in suspicious circumstances by an SAS unit between November 2010 and May 2011 in Helmand province. These unarmed Afghans were killed ” in cold blood “ by the SAS during night raids and weapons were then placed on their corpses to justify these crimes, reports the British channel after a four-year investigation.

Senior officials, including General Mark Carleton-Smith, who headed Britain’s special forces at the time, were aware of concerns about these operations within the SAS but did not inform the military police, according to the BBC. .

Under British law governing the armed forces, it is a criminal offense for a commander to fail to inform the military police if he has knowledge of potential war crimes, our colleagues note. Mr Carleton-Smith, who retired last month after commanding the entire British army, declined to comment to the BBC, whose the investigation relies on court documentsleaked emails and on the field work of its journalists in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defense claimed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. “No new evidence has been presented, but police will investigate any allegations if new evidence comes to light”he said in a statement to the chain.

Obstruction of the military police investigation

“Too many people were being killed in night raids and the explanations made no sense. When someone is detained, they must not end up killedreacted a military official to the BBC. It was clear at the time that something was wrong. »

Several warnings went up, according to the BBC, but the commando was authorized to finish its mission and was even deployed for another mission in 2012. In 2014, the Royal Military Police (RMP) launched an investigation into more than six hundred alleged offenses committed by British forces in Afghanistan, including the SAS. His investigators said they had been “impeded” by the military and the investigation ended in 2019.

According to the BBC, James Heappey, the Minister for the Armed Forces told the House of Commons: “No one in our organization, no matter how special, enjoys a waiver of the law. » Labor lawmakers have called for an investigation. A Ministry of Defense spokesman said British forces had “served with courage and professionalism” in Afghanistan and that they were required to respect the “highest standards”.

British forces were deployed to Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led international coalition after the September 11 attacks. Thousands of British troops were sent to Helmand from 2006 to try to provide security for reconstruction projects. Their mission quickly became a combat operation.

Read also War in Afghanistan: a look back at twenty years of American presence

Le Monde with AP and AFP