Lawyers join call for Afghan SAS raid inquiry
The call is growing for an independent inquiry into two 'revenge raids' by the New Zealand SAS on Afghan villages, with three lawyers now representing victims of the attacks.
Twenty-one civilians, including a three-year-old girl, were killed or injured in the 2010 raids which were retaliation for the death of Kiwi soldier Tim O'Donnell.
The raids are the subject of a new book Hit and Run by investigative journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson.
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High-profile lawyers Deborah Manning, Richard McLeod and Rodney Harrison QC have joined forces to represent the villagers affected by the raids - the injured and the immediate family of the dead.
They've written to Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and Prime Minister Bill English asking for an independent inquiry.
"In our view the material that has been released to date establishing credible allegations that in the course of their attack on these villages in 2010, the New Zealand Defence Forces breached fundamental principles of New Zealand law and international law including war crimes and violations of the right to life," Mr McLeod said at a news conference on Friday.
Since the release of the book earlier this week, there have been calls from Opposition political parties and other organisations for an independent inquiry into what it details.
Mr English has declined to do so, saying there was a high threshold for an inquiry and there'd had been no new information to warrant one.
"There'll be any amount of speculation about what did and didn't happen. There's been no evidence the SAS behaved outside the way of the rules of engagement, and I think that's important," Mr English says.
He's yet to have a meeting with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Chief of Defence who are set to return to New Zealand from a secretive trip to Iraq this weekend.
However, Mr English said a decision on an inquiry will be made once a "common basis of facts" is reached.
The Defence Force has also vehemently denied the series of events as laid out in the book, saying it is "confident" no war crimes were committed.
However, then Defence Minister Dr Wayne Mapp conceded civilians were killed. The book claims he called the raids New Zealand's "biggest and most disastrous operation - a fiasco".
Now the team of lawyers have added their voices to the chorus for an investigation.
"We are calling for a full and independent inquiry and we say there is a duty imposed on New Zealand to hold such an inquiry in the light of the information that is coming forward," Mr Harrison QC says.
"To the likes of the Prime Minister who say they've seen nothing new, we say that is not the case and that in particular, the interviews with the villagers we now represent quite plainly represent something new."
An investigation was carried out immediately following the raid by the Afghan- International Security Assistance Force but none of the villagers were spoken to.
"Their side has not been heard. It can and should now be heard," Mr Harrison said.