The Guardian, August 1, 2010
Campaigners try to force MoD to court over Afghan killings
Move follows last week's disclosure of a series of civilian shootings on WikiLeaks
By David Leigh and Ed Pilkington
The prospect of a judicial review into previously covered-up civilian shootings in Afghanistan has opened up after human rights campaigners launched an attempt to take the Ministry of Defence to court.
A formal letter was sent to the defence secretary, Liam Fox, at the weekend by a lawyer, Phil Shiner, on behalf of the peace campaigner Maya Evans. The campaigners say the killings "require to be investigated as suspected war crimes" under the legislation that set up the international criminal court.
This follows the disclosure in the Guardian that a series of unusual civilian shootings involving two British army units, are documented in last week's WikiLeaks publication of thousands of leaked US military files.
A formal letter was sent to the defence secretary, Liam Fox, at the weekend by a lawyer, Phil Shiner, on behalf of the peace campaigner Maya Evans. Shiner said: "I am sure we will be able to get this into court."
The campaigners say the killings "require to be investigated as suspected war crimes" under the legislation that set up the international criminal court. They call on the MoD to conduct a proper investigation of the allegations.
Since the details of civilian shootings recorded in the war logs were revealed, MoD officials have not disputed their general accuracy, but ministers have failed to give any explanation, or order any public investigation.
Shiner told Fox the documents reproduced in the Guardian "Identify ... the killing of at least 26 civilians and the wounding of a further 20 by British forces".
This is a relatively small fraction of the hundreds of civilian killings admitted to by US forces in the course of filing war logs which were later leaked. Most British units barely figure in the civilian casualty reports collected in the field by US intelligence.
In Sangin all you can feel is the intense hatred of people who hate everything you stand for, says photographer David Gill.
In some of the more benign areas of Helmand children may offer the occasional wave to passing soldiers, but in Sangin all you can feel is the "intense hatred of a people who hate everything you stand for", Gill says. Development work has been glacial. The new "traditional courthouse" is little more than a room with six plastic chairs.
The Guardian, Apr. 22, 2010
But two detachments of UK soldiers figure repeatedly, and it is unclear whether this exceptional pattern was ever fully investigated. One US soldier reported in Kabul that they could not obtain the full story of a shooting because "the investigation is controlled by the British".
The US field reports detail a series of four shootings of individual innocent civilians in the streets of Kabul, during the space of little more than a month in 2007, at a time when the Coldstream Guards were newly patrolling the capital. The incidents culminated in the death of an Afghan general's son.
In the US documents it is alleged that the following year saw a six-month period in which Royal Marine commando units took a regular toll on innocent motorists, shooting innocent drivers and motorcyclists on eight occasions for approaching too close to convoys.
Earlier this year, in separate proceedings, the high court gave permission for a judicial review of the government's failure to hold a public inquiry into the British army's detention policies in Iraq, amid allegations that large numbers of civilians were tortured.
The court said it could be argued that "the alleged ill-treatment was systemic, and not just at the whim of individual soldiers". It criticised the effectiveness of MoD proposals to investigate the claims.
Meanwhile, US army investigators seeking to trace the source of the massive trove of leaked logs have been questioning people with links to WikiLeaks, as well as the US army intelligence analyst arrested in May on charges relating to an earlier military leak.
Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, further upped the war of words against the WikiLeaks website when he told ABC News: "There's a moral culpability. And that's where I think the verdict is 'guilty' on WikiLeaks. They have put this out withou t any regard whatsoever for the consequences."
Investigators are fanning out across Boston, interviewing students and associates of Bradley Manning, the intelligence analyst accused of leaking a video of a US helicopter attack in Baghdad which was posted by WikiLeaks.
Manning has not been charged with any offences connected with the Afghan war logs, but he continues to be held at the Quantico marine base in Virginia.
A computer expert in the Boston area told The Boston Globe today that he had been approached by US military officials. Several other computer experts and hackers have also been interviewed anonymously, according to the New York Times and Washington Post.
A further extension of the inquiry into the leak came when Jacob Appelbaum, a specialist in internet privacy protection based in Seattle, was detained at Newark airport in New Jersey having returned to the US from Amsterdam.
Appelbaum, who has connections with WikiLeaks and has stood in for its founder, Julian Assange, at hacker conferences, had his laptop and three mobile phones seized.
According to Cnet, he was questioned for three hours about WikiLeaks and the whereabouts of Assange, as well as about his views on the Iraq and Afghan wars. Appelbaum declined to answer any of the questions without a lawyer present.
The aggressive inquiry is considered partly designed to discourage any further leaking from the military.
Characters Count: 6524