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Lawmakers demand inquiry into Afghan deaths

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    Posted: 22-Mar-2017 at 2:30pm
Lawmakers demand inquiry into Afghan deaths in New Zealand military raid

Lawmakers demand inquiry into Afghan deaths in New Zealand military raid


New Zealand lawmakers on Wednesday called for an independent probe into allegations that New Zealand special forces troops killed unarmed civilians in a botched raid in Afghanistan in 2010.

Investigative journalists Nicky Hager and John Stephenson alleged in their book, "Hit and Run," released Tuesday, that the Special Air Service and U.S. forces killed six civilians including a 3-year-old girl in a New Zealand-led raid on two villages.

Another 15 civilians were wounded in the action in Afghanistan's Baghlan province where the SAS mistakenly believed they would find insurgents who had attacked a New Zealand patrol 19 days earlier, killing a New Zealand officer, in neighboring Bamiyan.

The opposition Green Party said New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) officials had to front up to answer questions on the operation.

"If there is nothing to hide, then there is nothing stopping (Prime Minister) Bill English from announcing a full, independent inquiry into these allegations today," Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said in a statement.

"Full transparency from the government is the only way we're going to find out exactly what happened. Refusing to comment and refusing to investigate won't make these allegations go away."

Leader of the opposition New Zealand First party Winston Peters said the allegations could not be left to stand without proper investigation.

"What New Zealand must do is appoint a respected and trustworthy individual who the public can have faith in, and get the inquiry under way immediately," Peters said in a statement.

Alison Cole, a New Zealand international human rights attorney and an international criminal law investigator, wrote in an on-line commentary that New Zealand could potentially face war crimes charges in the International Criminal Court.

"The key aspect which could potentially trigger action by the International Criminal Court will be inaction by the New Zealand government," wrote Cole.

"The key way to avoid investigation by the International Criminal Court is for the national political process to kick in and pursue accountability within our own courts."

English told Radio New Zealand Wednesday that he would meet with NZDF officials and Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating in the next few days to discuss the previous inquiry into the raid.

The NZDF remained satisfied personnel had acted according to the rules of engagement in a "pretty challenging" environment," said English.

An investigation just after the raid by a joint Afghan Ministry of Defense, Ministry of the Interior and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assessment team, in accordance with ISAF procedures found allegations of civilian casualties were unfounded, but critics say that investigation was a cover-up.

The NZDF and the government have repeatedly denied reports of innocents killed in the raids.

Information in the book was given by present and former New Zealand, Afghan and U.S. military personnel and had been cross-checked, while people from the Afghan villages that were raided had also assisted, said the authors.

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