Claims the MoD withheld emails suggesting an SAS unit “executed” civilians have been rubbished because the documents have been independently reviewed four times and there was no evidence to bring a prosecution.
The Ministry of Defence has been ordered by a High Court judge to submit a witness statement explaining why the documents that appear to show war crimes being committed in Afghanistan in 2011 were not released years ago.
The internal emails between senior special forces officers expressed concerns about the killings of 33 people in 11 night raids in just three months by an SAS unit. The messages appear to suggest 10 similar incidents in which men were shot in their homes after surrendering. In those incidents special forces soldiers from an unnamed unit claimed the men they shot had attempted to grab a weapon.
One email from a senior officer in the regiment described the claims as “explosive” and “disturbing”, adding he feared a “deliberate policy” to kill “fighting-aged males”.
The emails were disclosed shortly before another High Court hearing being brought by a Afghan man in his late twenties, Saifullah Yar, who is seeking an independent investigation into the deaths of four of his family, shot by the SAS in 2011.
The MoD on Sunday night rejected the suggestion they had been deliberately withheld at one earlier hearing, adding that the documents had been included in a series of subsequent investigations and independent reviews.
An MoD spokesman said: “This is not new evidence, and this historical case has already been independently investigated by the Royal Military Police (RMP) as part of Operation Northmoor. It has also been subject to four reviews conducted by an Independent Review Team.
“These documents were considered as part of the independent investigations, which concluded there was insufficient evidence to refer the case for prosecution.”
None of the historical allegations investigated as part of Operation Northmoor have led to a single prosecution.
Mr Justice Swift is to receive a response from Government lawyers next month.
The ministry spokesman added: “The Service Police and the Service Prosecuting Authority of course remain open to considering allegations should new evidence, intelligence or information come to light.”