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May 13, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Activists Say SAS Raid Inquiry Lacks Transparency

Three public hearings are an insufficient response to allegations that the New Zealand SAS killed Afghan civilians, members of the Hit and Run inquiry campaign say.

 

The inquiry in question is investigating the claims that the New Zealand Special Air Service (SAS) killed civilians during the Operation Burnham raid in Afghanistan in August 2010. The allegations are found in the 2017 book Hit and Run, written by journalists Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson.

 

Hager and Stephenson allege that during the raid, the SAS killed 6 unarmed Afghan civilians and injured 15 others, in addition to damaging houses and personal property. The SAS say that the operation succeeded in killing 12 armed insurgents.

 

The Hit and Run campaign group was formed to push for government investigation into the events of the operation.

 

An inquiry into the events surrounding Operation Burnham was ordered in April 2018, but no details were announced until December 2018, after a public hearing.

 

The Inquiry then said in a media release that it is “likely to be the most complex inquiry ever conducted in New Zealand in procedural terms” and that due to the “volume of top secret information”, most of the inquiry would not be open to the public.*

 

However, they said they are endeavouring to make the inquiry “as transparent as possible.”

 

Three ‘module’ hearings of the inquiry are open to the public. They cover the background of New Zealand’s involvement in the Afghanistan war and the location of the Operation Burnham, the effects of the conflict on Afghan people, and the laws applicable in the case, respectively.

 

The first module was held on April 4, and the next modules will take place on May 22-23 of May and 29-30 July of this year.

 

The public can enter and observe at the hearings. There have also been several opportunities for public submissions on the hearings.

 

However, the Inquiry has been slow to confirm dates and locations of the public modules, which has made it hard for the public to attend.

 

The location of the 4th April module, at Meetings on the Terrace, was only confirmed a week before it took place. The location for the second public hearing was updated on the Inquiry website on Wednesday 8 May, two weeks before the hearing. There is no confirmed location for the third hearing, however it is likely to be at the same venue as the second hearing.**

 

The Hit and Run Campaign group is seeking to “challenge the nature of the ongoing inquiry” to give the alleged victims more of a voice, according to Sarah Atkinson, a spokesperson for the group.

 

She said that the modules disadvantage the representation for the villagers by focusing on background details rather than the event itself and do not reckon with the “culture of cover-up” within the New Zealand Defence Force.

 

“They can’t handle having their name look bad…they’re dragging their feet, they’re wasting time and resources,” she said.

 

The Hit and Run Campaign would like to see acknowledgment of blame, an official apology, and reparations to the alleged victims. Those interested can visit hitandrunnz.com for more information.

* The original story attributed these statements to the NZDF. It was brought to our attention that this was a statement made by the Inquiry, rather than by the NZDF, and has been changed appropriately.

** This story was originally filed before, but published after, the second hearing date was confirmed. As such, the original article indicated that the second hearing date had not yet been confirmed, which was incorrect.

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