Phil Shiner is one truly greedy, immoral and repugnant bottom dweller (lawyer).
Exclusive: Now British troops face mass criminal investigation over Taliban claims
Soldiers await the helicopter rescue of a colleague injured by a bomb in Helmand.
Credit: Jason P. Howe /The Daily Telegraph
Robert Mendick, Ben Farmer. Tom Morgan
Telegraph, 22 September 2016 • 8:32am
British troops are facing a fresh wave of criminal investigations into alleged abuse after the Ministry of Defence quietly set up a new inquiry into soldiers’ actions in Afghanistan, The Telegraph has learnt.
The allegations include those from a Taliban bombmaker who claims his arrest and detention for 106 days was illegal, despite troops’ belief that he would make bombs designed to kill British soldiers if they released him.
So far, criminal investigations into British soldiers have focused mainly upon their actions in Iraq. But new figures obtained by the Telegraph show that more than 550 historic allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan are now under investigation by a special police unit set up by ministers.
It means investigators are now examining claims of abuse in more than 2,200 cases in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
I cannot envisage a more scrutinised battlefield we have asked our soldiers to operate on than Afghanistan.
Johnny Mercer, Conservative MP
The Afghanistan inquiry was initially staffed by 60 Royal Military Police officers but the number deployed by the MoD to the investigation has more than doubled to 124 in recent months.
A new headquarters has been established to house the unit – code-named Operation Northmoor – on an airbase in Cornwall and the Government gave the inquiry an additional £7.5 million in funding earlier this year.
That amount alone will be spent on a computer system to handle the workload, with the total cost of the inquiry to run into tens of millions of pounds. The expanded inquiry into alleged Afghan abuses – some more than a decade old – has led to renewed demands that it and the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) be wound up.
British Royal Marines Fire in Bariju, Northern Helmand, Afghanistan in 2007. Credit: Petty Office Sean Clee/epa/Corbis
Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP and a former Army captain who served in Helmand province, said he was staggered that the MoD was investigating alleged abuses in Afghanistan on such a scale.
Mr Mercer, who is chairman of a parliamentary defence committee, said: “I cannot envisage a more scrutinised battlefield we have asked our soldiers to operate on than Afghanistan. Soldiers were killed in efforts to reduce risks to civilians.
“That we are now prosecuting these same soldiers who we were asking to fire only when fired upon, to use the most minimal force necessary to preserve life, to bear huge personal risk of violent death and injury whilst fighting a violent insurgency on the Governments behalf, is physically painful to watch yet alone be part of.”
Soldiers of ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Regiment, on patrol in Showal, Helmand. Credit: Julian Simmonds
Retired Colonel Tim Collins, who led British troops in Iraq, said the allegations against soldiers were being made by “parasitic lawyers”.
The MoD confirmed yesterday that the cases being investigated included soldiers accused of the detention and alleged mistreatment of a Taliban commander and bombmaker who was held for more than 100 days in Helmand.
The military captured Serdar Mohammed in April 2010 and believed that if he was let go he would pose a threat to troops on the ground or could be tortured if handed over to the Afghan authorities.
At the time, British troops were suffering huge losses, mainly as a consequence of roadside bombs. Operation Northmoor is looking at claims that Mohammed was assaulted during his arrest.
Captain Wayne Owers uncovers a suspect device during training on the ranges at Bastion Joint Operating Base. Credit: Cpl Rupert Frere
Anger over the inquirieswas sparked after the disclosure last weekend by the Telegraph that an Army major, with two medals for bravery, and two other servicemen, face being prosecuted for manslaughter over the death of a 19-year-old Iraqi who drowned in 2003.
The three men had previously been cleared of any wrongdoing after a two-year investigation. Any prosecution would be the first as a result of an Ihat inquiry.
The prospect of the prosecutions of veterans in Afghanistan will cause further alarm and distress for those already feeling betrayed over their treatment in Iraq. Previous official figures suggested the RMP officers were investigating 160 allegations of abuse in Afghanistan.
The new figures show the number of allegations has risen more than threefold to 551 cases made by 157 Afghans. The bulk of the allegations have been lodged by human rights lawyers, the vast majority over Iraq by Public Interest Lawyers, a law firm which closed down in the summer after its legal aid was withdrawn over claims of irregularities by its founder, Phil Shiner.
The MoD said many of the cases under criminal investigation involve the detention of Afghans “on suspicion of involvement in insurgent activity”. At the time of Serdar Mohammed’s arrest in April 2010, dozens of British troops were being killed or maimed every month, mainly by Taliban bombs.
Human rights campaigners allege that during his capture “soldiers let loose a dog which attacked Mohammed and bit him on the shoulder … He was then beaten and kicked by a number of soldiers” while handcuffed. Mohammed is already taking civil action against the UK.
He is suing the British government for unlawful detention and the Supreme Court is due to make a ruling next month. If it rules in his favour it will open the floodgates to hundreds of compensation claims, many of them brought by the human rights law firm Leigh Day.
After he was eventually handed over to Afghan authorities, he was visited by UK personnel on three occasions at a prison at Lashkar Gah, but made no allegations of mistreatment. He was tried and convicted in the Afghan courts and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, although he is thought to have been released in 2014.
An independent investigation is the best way to make sure that innocent personnel are not dragged through the courts without cause
The MoD established Operation Northmoor’s headquarters at RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay, in February this year. It is reported that some staff from the National Crime Agency, Britain’s equivalent of the FBI, have also been seconded to the project.
The MoD has spent almost £7.6 million on “a Scientific Forensic Data Handling Computer System”, which, according to the MoD website, is necessary to ensure the UK meets its legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights on investigating the abuse claims fully. The MoD says the computer system will be used “to process and review forensic electronic/digital evidence”.
A spokesman for the MoD said: “Our Armed Forces are rightly held to the highest standards and, whilst rare, where there are credible claims of criminal behaviour, we should investigate them.
“An independent investigation is the best way to make sure that innocent personnel are not dragged through the courts without cause – none of the Op Northmoor allegations investigated have so far been referred to the Service Prosecuting Authority.”
A spokesman for Leigh Day said: “We are acting for a further 90 Afghans, in cases brought against the MoD, who allege they were unlawfully detained and/or mistreated or their relatives unlawfully killed by the UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan.”
The spokesman added: “We are also aware that the Royal Military Police of their own volition are investigating cases of alleged wrongdoing.”