No more British troops will be prosecuted over Afghanistan war crimes, Veteran’s minister Johnny Mercer says after £10m probe was closed without bringing any charges
- Inquiry by Royal Military Police found no evidence with which to bring charges
- At peak, investigation looked into 675 criminal allegations from 159 people
- Comes as UK government proposes laws to protect soldiers from prosecution
No more British troops will face prosecution over alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, the veteran’s minister Johnny Mercer has said.
As much as £10million of taxpayers’ money has been spent on an inquiry into soldiers conduct, codenamed Operation Northmoor, which at its peak saw 120 investigators looking into 675 criminal allegations from 159 separate complainants.
But the Royal Military Policy investigation has now closed without charging any servicemen who served in the war-torn region.
Allegations it looked into included those from Taliban bombmaker Serdar Mohammed, who claimed his arrest and detention for 106 days was unlawful.
Critics have accused the Ministry of Defence (MoD) of failing to investigate crimes sufficiently, including the shooting of four young men, Two were aged 12 and 14.
The decision comes after an inquiry by the Royal Military Police, codenamed Operation Northmoor, closes without any charges being brought
Mr Mercer, a former army captain who served in Afghanistan, told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘I’ve said this government is going to war on Lawfare, and I meant it.
‘This is another significant moment we retake ground ceded over the years to those who seek to rewrite history and line their own pockets with no regard at all for the damage they have done to some of our nation’s finest people.
‘We now know that none of the historical allegations from Afghanistan have led to prosecutions, and that most of the compensation claims were eventually withdrawn.
‘I recognise this has meant that many of our remarkable Armed Forces have been living under the unique burden of vexatious claims and a cycle of seemingly endless reinvestigation.’
The MoD said Operation Northmoor was closed after a ‘thorough and independent’ investigation which, it said, had found ‘insufficient evidence to refer any personnel to prosecutors’.
The government is also proposing a law that would mean prosecutions against British soldiers serving overseas must be brought within five years of the alleged crime being committed
The British government introduced a bill to protect the country’s soldiers from prosecution for crimes committed outside the country in March this year.
The new legislation proposed introducing a five-year time limit on any prosecutions, meaning soldiers are unlikely to face court action for actions in the 2003 invasion of Iraq or 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
The measures will only cover British soldiers serving outside the UK, meaning those who committed offences during the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles will not be protected.
The MoD has already paid out millions of pounds to settle claims brought over cases of unlawful killing and torture, both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Mercer said: ‘This package of legal measures will reduce the unique pressure faced by personnel who perform exceptional feats in incredibly difficult and complex circumstances.
‘This important next step has gone further than any other government before to protect military personnel who put their life in jeopardy to protect us.’
Boris Johnson is also thought to be looking at providing further protections for troops that served in Northern Ireland.
Royal Marine jailed for shooting dead wounded Taliban fighter in Afghanistan
Marine Alexander Blackman was jailed in 2013 for shooting a prisoner
A Royal Marine who was jailed for shooting dead a wounded Taliban fighter in Afghanistan was released in 2017.
Sergeant Alexander Blackman, from Taunton, Somerset, was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder in 2013.
But this conviction was later reduced to manslaughter following a campaign from his wife Claire, author Frederick Forsyth and the Daily Mail newspaper.
It was then overturned and he was released from prison, after judges at the Martial Appeal Court heard he had a recognised mental illness at the time of the killing in September 2011.
At the time the marine had been serving the final month of his six-month tour of Helmand province – a deployment in which the unit lost seven men.
Footage from a helmet-mounted camera showed Blackman shooting the Afghan prisoner in the chest at close range. It took place at a British patrol base that was under fire.