Latest news: Sunday 2 April

Latest news: Saturday 1 April

Latest news: Friday 31 March

Richard McLeod letter to PM & Ministers Gerry Brownlee and Chris Finlayson

Re: Allegations of breaches of domestic and international law in Afghanistan by New Zealand Defence Forces – “Operation Burnham”

Dear Sirs,

  1. We refer to our correspondence of 24 March 2017. As you are now aware, we have been instructed to act for the families of the deceased and other individuals of the villages of Khak Khuday Dad and Naik in Baghlan Province, Afghanistan. Our clients are the innocent victims of military operations conducted against their villages by international forces, including the New Zealand Defence Force (“NZDF”), during the early hours of 22 August 2010, and also during a subsequent raid carried out on Naik village some weeks later (“the military operations”).

  2. You are by now aware of recent allegations of breaches of domestic and international law committed by the NZDF in relation to these military operations. These allegations have been raised publicly, including in a book entitled Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson (“Hit & Run”). Since its release on 21 March 2017, Hit & Run has generated considerable public interest and outrage concerning the actions taken by the NZDF in military operations under the auspices of “Operation Burnham”.

  3. In our earlier correspondence, we advised that shortly we would be writing to you on behalf of our clients requesting that you initiate a full and independent inquiry to investigate the matters referred to in that correspondence and this is the purpose of this correspondence. We are aware that Ministers may be considering making a decision today on whether to commission an inquiry into the allegations and concerns raised about the actions of the NZDF during Operation Burnham.

  4. We advise that we have just received information that is directly relevant to our request for an inquiry and which relates to the various claims publicised by the New Zealand Defence Force in a media release of 26 March 2017 and press conference of the Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Tim Keating on 27 March 2017. We are currently in the process of confirming instructions with our clients before that information is provided to you. These instructions and this information are of great significance to the decision that you are presently facing.

  5. We expect to be in a position to provide this information to you, by or before tomorrow morning, Wednesday 29 March 2017, due to time zone constraints. In the meantime, we request that no decision be made regarding an inquiry without our clients being first afforded the opportunity to provide potentially significant information to the Government of New Zealand which would be directly relevant to the need for an inquiry. However, you are of course welcome to make a decision accepting our request for an inquiry before this time. In the interim, we set out our request for the need for an inquiry into Operation Burnham below.

    Operation Burnham

  6. We are aware of the recent NZDF Media Release of 26 March 2017 entitled, “NZDF Statement on Hager/Stephenson Book” (“the latest NZDF media release”), augmented by a media conference held by the Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating to rebut allegations about the NZDF made in Hit & Run on 27 March 2017. The latest NZDF media release and follow up media conference claims that NZDF personnel have never operated in the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. It further states that Operation Burnham was conducted in a settlement called Tirgiran, which is 2.2 kilometres south of Khak Khuday Dad village. The latest NZDF media release also refers to an ISAF investigation which alleges a “gun sight malfunction”. That is a reference to a 29 August 2010 News Release from the ISAF Joint Command-Afghanistan, which uses identical language to that of the latest NZDF media release. (Refer to page 135 of Hit & Run for a full copy of the ISAF News Release.)

  7. The necessary conclusion to be drawn is that the NZDF has by means of its latest media release and media conference now publicly advised and confirmed that Operation Burnham took place on 22 August 2010 – allegedly 2.2 kilometres south of Khak Kuday Dad village. In its version of the events of Operation Burnham, the NZDF has confirmed that the operations included “air support capacity” and that two buildings suffered damage.

  8. It is important in this context to note that the NZDF earlier issued a media release on 20 April 2011, which confirmed that on 22 August 2010, operating as part of a Coalition Force, they were part of a wider ISAF mission in Bamyan Province where nine insurgents were killed. (We note that the NZDF clearly made an error by stating that the operation was in Bamyan. It seems accepted by all involved that the operation occurred in neighbouring Baghlan province: for the earlier NZDF press release, refer to Hit & Run, page 136.)

  9. We note also that the NZDF confirmed, in their media release issued on 21 March 2017, that “[t]he [NZDF] stands by the statement it made dated 20 April 2011”, referred to above.

  10. The inevitable conclusion is that the NZDF has now confirmed in three media releases (20 April 2011, 21 March 2017 and 26 March 2017) and a media conference that it was involved in a military operation on 22 August 2010 in Baghlan province; that there were fatalities (allegedly nine “insurgents”), and that there were associated allegations of civilian casualties (which the NZDF denied). Furthermore, taking into account the ISAF media release and the NZDF media releases, it has also effectively been confirmed by NZDF that property damage occurred during a military operation in which it was involved, namely damage to two village buildings.

  11. Our clients have been made aware of the latest NZDF media release and its contents and allegations, as well as prior NZDF media releases and ISAF media releases. Contrary to the latest NZDF media release, our emphatic instructions from our clients are that there was no other military operation in the area of Tirgiran on or about 22 August 2010, and that the only military operation or raid that occurred on this date took place in the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. Furthermore, to be clear, the only villages to suffer deaths, injuries and/or destruction of property on the night of 22 August 2010 in the Tirgiran area were Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. Our clients reject outright the latest claims by the NZDF that there was a separate military operation (resulting in deaths and destruction of buildings) on the same night, occurring some kilometres south of Khak Khuday Dad village.

    Need for an inquiry

  12. In our view, the recent NZDF media release both reinforces and increases the need for an independent inquiry into Operation Burnham. There is now considerable public confusion and concern in relation to the events and outcome of Operation Burnham.

  13. In requesting an independent inquiry, we rely on both our instructions from our clients as to what occurred and the content of the Hit & Run publication, which you no doubt have available to you. We further note there are other statements in the public record to support the claim being advanced that there was only one military operation involving civilian deaths in Tigiran on 22 August 2010, including:

    (i)  The Afghanistan Annual Report 2010, Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict prepared by the United Nations Assistance Mission and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (published in March 2011) which records that “[i]nternational military forces conducted an investigation into an air strike on 22 August in...Baghlan province that caused six civilian deaths...”;

    (ii)  There were independent media reports of the military operation in the Tirgiran area on 22 August 2010 in Afghanistan and in the New York Times, which referred to civilian deaths (refer pages 77-78 of Hit & Run).

14. It is clear that both the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission and the Afghanistan media reported on the military operation and deaths. That they could report as they did and at the same time fail to mention a second and separate military operation on the same night in the Tirgiran area, which allegedly also caused nine insurgent deaths and the destruction of buildings in a village or villages, is completely implausible.

15. Given all of the above, we submit that it is untenable for the NZDF to assert that Operation Burnham was a separate operation on the night of 22 August 2010 which occurred 2.2 kilometres south of Khak Khuday Dad village.

16. In our view, the latest NZDF media release has, at best, created confusion for not only the public but also the public sector, and at worst is an attempt to conceal the true nature of their role in military operations conducted in relation to our clients’ villages on 22 August 2010.

17. In our letter of last Friday we wrote that the publicly available material, along with our clients’ instructions, establishes credible allegations that the NZDF has breached the most fundamental principles of New Zealand and international law. The alleged breaches include war crimes and violations of the right to life.

Requests

18. We now formally request on behalf of our clients that a full and independent inquiry be established under the Inquiries Act 2013 to inquire into the actions of the NZDF in relation to Operation Burnham, including what appear to be subsequent and indeed ongoing attempts to cover up and conceal those actions, and indeed into all of the serious allegations outlined above. We note that the Chief of Defence Force stated publicly yesterday at the media conference that he is not opposed to an inquiry into Operation Burnham, but that such an inquiry requires a legal basis. We set out the legal basis for such an inquiry below.

19. Without limiting the matters to be considered by an inquiry, some key matters are identified here. For ease, we refer to relevant page numbers in the publication Hit & Run, but this should not be taken that this forms the sole basis of our instructions. The allegations which require an independent inquiry firstly relate to the military operations on 22 August 2010 and some weeks later affecting the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. The inquiry should include consideration of the conduct and actions of the NZDF, and also the responsibility of the NZDF and individuals involved for the following human rights violations:

(i)  The deaths of six civilians and injuring a further fifteen civilians, all non- combatants and including children in Khak Khuday Dad and Naik;1

(ii)  Bombardment of the villages of Khak Khuday Dad and Naik by helicopter fire;2

(iii)  The destruction of civilian homes and property by helicopter fire and by New Zealand forces using fires and explosives, without military justification;3

(iv)  Failing to provide medical assistance to the injured and dying or other assistance to the villagers, both immediately following the attack and subsequently;4 and

(v)  The destruction of civilian homes and property including the destruction of religious materials.5

20. In relation to the actions of the military helicopters during Operation Burnham, the allegation is that US helicopters were acting directly under the control of the NZSAS, which had overall command of the raid and all forces involved. In relation to the deceased victims, it is alleged that four were killed by helicopter fire, while two were killed by sniper fire which likely came from NZSAS soldiers.6

21. We also note that further serious allegations of grave human rights violations in Hit & Run include:

(i)  The mistreament of a restrained prisoner by New Zealand SAS soldiers – it is alleged they beat and injured a bound and restrained prisoner in their custody;7

(ii)  The transfer of the prisoner to the custody of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, an organisation known to use torture routinely;8

(iii)  This prisoner was tortured, and a confession obtained under torture was provided to New Zealand forces;9 and

(iv)  NZDF involvement in targeted and extrajudicial killings of individuals. The NZDF were responsible for eight individuals being placed on the JPEL target list, of whom at least several were authorised for both capture and targeted killing. Two of those individuals were killed in 2011; both during separate targeted air strikes.10

22. While we do not have our clients’ instructions to pursue the serious allegations set out in the above paragraph, we do note these as responsible members of the legal profession, given the grave nature of these issues and our professional obligations to uphold the rule oflaw.

23. We also note that the term ‘war crimes’ can provoke a strong emotive response, and consider it helpful to place it in its international law context. New Zealand’s engagement in Afghanistan is described as an armed conflict of a non-international nature, and a war crime in this context is a serious violation of the laws and customs applicable in such a conflict, within the framework of international law.11 A breach can be an act or an omission, and must typically be committed either intentionally or recklessly. Prohibited conduct can be identified by reference to instruments such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court or the Geneva Conventions, for example, or by reference to customary international law including the jurisprudence of various international tribunals and state practice. War crimes can include the destruction of property not justified by military necessity.

24. The request for a full and independent inquiry is based on a number of legal grounds. There are numerous obligations upon the New Zealand authorities to inquire into these alleged human rights violations set out above, including the clear obligation to investigate and inquire into allegations of serious human rights violations when they arise. New Zealand’s human rights obligations arise under a number of statutes, common law and international obligations including the following:

(i)  The right to life, as per s 8 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (“NZBORA”);

(ii)  The right to be free from torture, as per s 9 of the NZBORA;

(iii)  Crimes of Torture Act 1989, as per s 3;

(iv)  War crimes, as per s 11 of the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act 2000;

(v)  United Nations Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment;

(vi)  United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

(vii)  United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights;

(viii)  United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (resolution adopted on 29 November 1985 by the UN General Assembly).

25. We submit that a commission of inquiry is necessary to establish a full account of the NZDF’s actions in Afghanistan during Operation Burnham and also subsequently, in relation to the extent of any investigation conducted by the NZDF and what appears to have been a concerted and high level attempt to cover up and indeed conceal from the public of New Zealand what in fact occurred during and subsequent to Operation Burnham.

26. Any inquiry will require full and sufficient terms of reference to inquire into all allegations; the power to compel witnesses and require evidence under oath; the ability to review all relevant information including that which may be subject to national security concerns, in accordance with accepted procedures for handling such material; the inclusion of all affected parties; and finally, findings to be made in public. Findings should also address the causes of these events, including the planning of any operations and provide guidance to prevent future human rights violations (assuming violations are found).

27. Given the compromised position of the NZDF, the option of permitting the NZDF itself to conduct or preside over an investigation and/or inquiry into these matters must, we submit, be completely ruled out. In order to ensure public confidence in the outcome of an inquiry, it should in our view be presided over by a retired or sitting High Court (or appellate) Judge.

28. We are also of the clear view that to date there has been no independent investigation or inquiry into Operation Burnham, including the deaths which ocurred. All NZDF media releases referred to above have referred to and relied upon an investigation by a joint ISAF-Afghan assessment team (“the ISAF investigation”). We consider the ISAF investigation to be wholly inadequate and as falling far short of New Zealand’s obligations to conduct a full and proper investigation of these matters

29. We are instructed that no investigator or authorities (be it from ISAF or elsewhere) have ever been to the villages of Naik or Khak Khuday Dad, nor spoken to any of their residents (the villagers), about the military operations. We confirm that the villagers have at all times wanted to speak to inquiring and investigating authorities about what happened to them during the military operations. This remains the position of the villagers today. They remain willing to cooperate fully in any way they can with an inquiry into what happened to their villages, to their loved ones and to those who were directly injured and affected.

30. We also advise that ISAF investigations are not considered to be independent investigations, and have been widely criticised by the international human rights community. See for example a recent press release from Amnesty International which states, “[w]e have documented instances of ISAF reaching incorrect findings in their reports and have also raised concerns about their ability, as military forces, to conduct an impartial investigation into military conduct.”12

31. Furthermore, we are aware that the New Zealand authorities do not even hold a copy of the ISAF investigation, the NZDF having disclosed this recently to the New Zealand Human Rights Foundation in a response to a request under the Official Information Act dated 15 March 2017. That the NZDF does not even hold a copy of the ISAF investigation further reinforces our view of its inadequacy and the improper over-reliance by the NZDF on the ISAF investigation as having discharged New Zealand’s investigative obligations.

32. To be clear, the purpose of this letter is not to request any criminal prosecutions at this stage. We consider the proper course of action is a full inquiry. We note that an inquiry, under the Inquiries Act 2013, can make findings of fault or recommendations that futher steps be taken to determine liability.13

33. Following an inquiry, the decision whether to initiate a prosecution would fall to the law officers of the Crown, who are empowered to decide in accordance with the Solicitor General’s Guidelines and other relevant information. The principle of complementarity requires state parties to the Statute of the International Criminal Court to undertake investigations where they have jurisdiction to do so. However, we do note that where a state party is unwilling or unable to do so, the intervention of the International Criminal Court will be justified, as will the initiation of civil claims under the NZBORA and tort liability.

34. In our view,there is an additional need to have a formal inquiry into these matters which is the treating the victims of Operation Burnham with respect and dignity. It is not acceptable to deal with such matters through drip feeding information through the media. We hold particular concern regarding the camera footage of this operation which was referred to by the Chief of the Defence Force in the media conference yesterday and that it may be possible to release this footage. Media have subsequently been calling for this footage to be released.

35. It is essential to deal with this information respectfully and to consider the needs of the victims of Operation Burnham before any footage is released publicly. Such footage could include traumatising material of seeing their loved ones killed or themselves being injured. This is not to say that such footage could never be released to the public, but in our view this must be done with respect to the victims. It is essential they are consulted and their views considered before any footage is released publicly.

36. Finally, we note that immediate steps must be taken to preserve all information and evidence relevant to Operation Burnham held by the NZDF and New Zealand government as this will be relevant to any inquiry or litigation surrounding these matters.

37. We urge you finally to take note of the importance of an inquiry in order to avoid irreparable damage to the international reputation of New Zealand; to maintain the integrity of our political and legal systems; and to confirm our commitment to the rule of law and the rights of all individuals.

Yours sincerely,

McLEOD & ASSOCIATES

RICHARD McLEOD

1 Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour (Nelson, Potton & Burton, 2017): chapters 3 and 4 and pages 42, 50-59 and 61-63.
2 Pages 36, 41, 49-53 and 61-62.
3 Pages 39-41, 60-61 and 68-69.

4 With the exception of medical assistance provided by Afghan forces to one elderly man injured by shrapnel: pages 44 and 69-70.
5 Pages 39 and 68-69.
6
Pages 56-59, see also David Fisher "A Kiwi soldier dead; a firefight ignites" NZ Herald (22 March 2017) http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11822830.
7  Pages 83-85.
8  Pages 87-88.
9  Pages 88-89.
10  Pages 24-26 and 91-92.
11 International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act 2000, s 11(2)(d); Rome Statute of the 5 6 International Criminal Court, art 8(2)(e).
12 Amnesty International “Amnesty International says New Zealand Government can’t rely on the ISAF report into civilian casualties in Afghanistan” (23 March 2017) https://www.amnesty.org.nz/amnesty- international-says-new-zealand-government-can%E2%80%99t-rely-isaf-report-civilian-casualties
13 Inquiries Act 2013, s 11(2).

Latest news: Thursday 30 March

‘As a nation we owe it to ourselves to find out’: former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp admits he was a source for Hit and Run - The Spinoff

What we know, and don't know, about the SAS raid allegations from Hit and Run - Stuff

NZDF advice will decide if inquiry held, PM says - NZ Herald

Security analyst Paul Buchanan sifts through Hit & Run claims - RNZ

Peter Dunne questioning if NZDF is covering up American soldiers' actions in Afghanistan raid - Stuff

Hit & Run: Inquiry not needed into Afghanistan raid - Defence Minister Wayne Mapp - Newshub

Defence moves to undermine Afghan raid book with map comparison - Stuff

Ex-defence minister urges further investigation into Hit & Run claims - Newstalk ZB

Hold Afghan inquiry to stop rumours: Dunne - MSN News

Acknowledge possible Afghan deaths: Mapp - NZ City

Hit & Run: Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp calls for further SAS investigation: 'We owe it to ourselves to find out' - NZ Herald

Former defence minister Wayne Mapp says New Zealand should find out the extent of any civilian casualties in 2010, but not necessarily through an inquiry - NZ Newswire

Rosemary McLeod: The drive to humiliate the young - and those who go to war - Stuff

Operation Burnham - Pundit

Hit & Run reply: This is what a military cover-up looks like - Asia Pacific Report

Peter Dunne questioning if NZDF is covering up American soldiers' actions in Afghanistan raid - Stuff

Even Wayne Mapp thinks we need an inquiry - No Right Turn

Hit & Run review – a painstaking and dangerous book challenge - Asia Pacific Report

Could the New Zealand SAS be responsible for war crimes in Afghanistan? - World Peace Organisation

Latest news: Wednesday 29 March

The cover up continues

 An analysis of the New Zealand Defence Force response to the book Hit and Run

Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson

The Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating presented the NZDF response to the book Hit and Run at a press conference on Monday 27 March 2017. For 45 minutes he and his colleagues suggested that everything in the book was incorrect.

The Hit and Run authors have now had time to study the defence chief's statements. Our conclusion is that the NZDF criticisms are wrong – with one exception – and that they have failed to address almost everything of substance in the book. This is what a cover up looks like.

1. The raid described in the book “is not an operation the NZSAS conducted”:  INCORRECT

The information presented in Keating's press conference leaves no doubt that the book and the defence chief are talking about the same raid. Keating gave the name of the raid (Operation Burnham), the times and date (12.30-3.45am on 22 August 2010), the location in the Tirgiran Valley, and said the SAS arrived in two Chinook helicopters, used SAS snipers, found a quantity of ammunition in one building and had one SAS trooper injured by falling debris. All of these are details of the SAS raid publicised first in chapter 3 of the book. There were not two different raids with the same operation name at the same time in the same valley. It is obviously the same raid.

An NZDF power point presentation shown in the press conference showed three main SAS objectives in the valley called A1, A2 and A3. The book had already identified the SAS's main targets as being the house and guest house of an insurgent named Abdullah Kalta and the house of an insurgent named Naimatullah, neither of whom were present during the raid. The NZDF objectives A1 and A2 are the buildings belonging to Abdullah Kalta seen in a photo on p.60 of the book and NZDF objective A3 is the house of Nematullah shown on pp. 39 and 60 of the book.

2. The SAS raid was in a different village with a different name: INCORRECT

The defence force claimed that the SAS raid occurred in a village called Tirgiran, not the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad named in the book. This is not true. The locals know the names of their own villages and they are called Naik and Khak Khuday Dad. The raid occurred there.

3. The SAS raid was about two kilometres from the position we gave in the book: CORRECT, BUT DOES NOT CHANGE THE STORY IN ANY SIGNIFICANT WAY

After the NZDF press conference, Nicky Hager said that the authors stood by the whole story and that at most the NZDF denials might mean that the events in the book occurred two kilometres from where we thought they were, ie. a slightly different location in the isolated mountain valley.

We have checked the NZDF maps shown at the press conference and it appears the location of the raid and the villages is indeed slightly different to what our local sources told us. But the villages at that location are definitely called Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, and all the rest of the story in the book is unchanged. Likewise the photos in the book of the villages attacked in the raid are correct, as are the photos of the victims and destroyed houses.

The Defence Force leapt on this and tried to sow doubt about the rest of the book. Keating said the “central premise” of the book was incorrect; that there were “major inaccuracies – the main one being the location”. But the location is a minor detail, difficult to establish in mountains with no roads or detailed maps (there are no known maps of the valley that include the locations and names of the villages along it). Contrary to what Keating said, the central premise of the book is that the actions of the SAS and its allies in the villages of Naik and Khak Khuday Dad led to civilian deaths and injuries, destruction of houses, neglect of wounded people and then a cover up – and none of that has changed.

4. The NZDF has now replied to the allegations in the book: INCORRECT

The defence force has not replied to most allegations in the book. Most strikingly, Keating's presentation did not address the deaths and injuries suffered by children, mothers and elderly people who were obviously not insurgents – which are the most important allegations in the book.

The allegations that the defence force has avoided or answered inadequately to date are:

* SAS-controlled attack helicopters fired at civilians in Khak Khuday Dad village with many casualties, including the three-year-old child Fatima

* SAS snipers appear to have shot at least one civilian, a recently graduated school teacher home on holiday

* SAS-controlled attack helicopters pursued two farmers who opposed the Taliban along the valley and killed them

* Twelve houses were destroyed despite there being no military necessity to do so

* No assistance was given to the wounded at the time, including in houses that Defence now says it knew might have contained civilians

* Nor did the SAS go back to render assistance later, despite knowing that civilians were likely to have been injured

* The SAS returned for a second raid on the village Naik and blew up a house or houses

* A bound and blindfolded prisoner was beaten by an SAS trooper while his colleagues looked on and did nothing

* The prisoner was then handed over to the Afghan secret police who were known to have a notorious reputation for torturing prisoners

* That prisoner was then tortured by the Afghan secret police and when the defence force learned about this it kept it secret

* The SAS arranged the extra-judicial killing of some other insurgent suspects

* The NZDF repeatedly denied and covered up what the SAS have done, and continue to do so to this day.

5. An ISAF investigation has already occurred, there is no need for another inquiry: A WEAK SELF-SERVING ARGUMENT

First it is important to explain about the investigation done in August 2010 by the InternationalSecurity Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition headquarters, which was cited repeatedly during the NZDF press conference. In 2010 the subject of civilian deaths was very sensitive in Afghanistan and so ISAF was attempting to investigate all suspected cases of civilians being killed by ISAF forces. But these “assessments” were very far from being full or independent. 

The ISAF investigation into the 22 August 2010 raid was completed in less than a week and did not involve anyone going to the area or talking to the affected villagers. It included a review of attack helicopter weapons system video and concluded that several “errant rounds”, caused by a gun sight malfunction, “may have resulted in civilian casualties”. However reports from SAS members and local people interviewed for the book describe multiple heavy attacks that wounded and killed civilians in different locations. Thus the hastily-conducted ISAF review appears far from being adequate. It is silent on most of the allegations in the book. 

There is no need for New Zealand to rely on the brief and inadequate ISAF review. Most of the information needed to confirm whether or not the allegations in the book are correct is located here in New Zealand, in the SAS files. The best option is an independent inquiry where this information can be gathered and assessed.

6. Keating said the insurgents may have used civilians as human shields; aircraft video showed insurgents were killed; the conduct of the New Zealand ground forces was “exemplary”; and so on: UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS AND SELECTIVE INFORMATION

Much of Keating's presentation was unsubstantiated assertions. This does not help the public find the truth since the defence force has an obvious interest in avoiding bad news about itself. He also said that the book claimed the SAS “deliberately killed civilians”, which we did not say. If we are correct that bad things are being covered up, we cannot expect the people at the heart of the cover up to provide impartial information. Once again, this means that the only acceptable option is a full and independent inquiry.

7.  Lieutenant General Tim Keating told the press conference: “The ground force commander was an NZSAS Officer who controlled both the ground activities and provided clearance, after the appropriate criteria had been met, for any involvement of the aircraft. These elements were co-ordinated by an air controller in his location.” CORRECT AND IMPORTANT INFORMATION

This statement contradicts earlier statements by the government (in 2014) where ministers suggested that if there had been any civilian deaths they were the responsibility of the US pilots, not the New Zealand SAS. It confirms what we said in the book: that the SAS commanders in charge of the raid have responsibility for deaths and injuries caused by the US attack helicopters, which they controlled and had requested to be part of the raid.

8. Finally, Keating told the pressthat there were legal complications for having an inquiry: INCORRECT

This is not correct. We are not proposing an inquiry by the defence force about itself. Thegovernment has the power to launch a full and independent inquiry at any time. We believe the NZDF is trying to avoid a full and independent inquiry precisely because some officers are scared of what it will show. But the issue will continue to fester, as it has for years, until that happens.

Press release: Location confusion must not detract from civilian casualties, a dead girl and serious breaches of defence force rules

We have been receiving media calls about our statement today and add these specific comments:

There has been confusion over the location of the events in our book Hit and Run. We have the right villages but it seems the slightly wrong location; the defence force has the wrong village name but the right location.

This is unfortunately not surprising in an isolated area of mountains with no roads or detailed maps.

However, we are absolutely certain about the details at the heart of the story – which we got from both SAS members on the raid and the villagers – which ismost of the casualties were woman and children, that civilian houses were destroyed and that later a prisoner was beaten and tortured.

The defence force and government have come up with nothing that addresses these central allegations.

They are just being tricky if they try to use the confusion over the location to avoid facing up to the awful things that happened on the SAS raid.

Latest news: Tuesday 28 March

Hit & Run author Jon Stephenson responds to 'wrong village' claim - The Spinoff

Sue Allen: Nicky Hager's PR victory - Stuff

From the fog of war to the blaze of the PR battle - Newsroom

Hager: Defence Force is trying to confuse public - RNZ

10 years, eight lives and $300m in Bamiyan - was New Zealand's time in Afghanistan worth it? - NZ Herald

Hit and Run vs the Defence Force: What you need to know - Newshub

Case remains for inquiry into Afghan raid accusations: Greens - NZ Newswire

Chris Trotter: The perils of blowback for the integrity of our armed forces - Stuff

Little on SAS claims: 'We need to know what the truth is' - RNZ

'Put up or shut up' Defence Force chief told - NZ Herald

Confusion reigns over New Zealand war crimes allegations - Vice

Little backing SAS inquiry - Stuff

Afghan villagers' lawyers formally call for inquiry - RNZ

Fog surrounding Afghan raid could be lifted now with evidence release - The Gisborne Herald

SAS soldiers should front inquiry: Little - Otago Daily Times

Marama Fox on Ture Whenua, inter-party fighting and Hit & Run - 95bFM

Hit and Run: New details could force Afghan inquiry, victims' lawyer claims - Newshub

Rachel Smalley: Full open inquiry into SAS raid claims could endanger NZers - Newstalk ZB

Afghan villagers' lawyer says more information supports need for an inquiry - Stuff 

NZDF creating confusion over SAS raid in Afghanistan, lawyers say - Newstalk ZB

SAS soldiers should front inquiry: Andrew Little - NZ Herald

‘They can’t get away with it,’ author of book on NZ ‘revenge’ raid in Afghanistan - RT

A fresh look at SAS claims is in the national interest - Stuff

Ann Beaglehole: What do John Key and Nicky Hager have in common? - Stuff

A review of Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s Hit and Run - The Daily Blog

Editorial: Military secrecy is not serving NZ well - NZ Herald

Why we are well past an inquiry and need an investigation - The Daily Blog

 

Latest news: Monday 27 March

Defence admits to possible civilian casualties in Afghan raid - but still says authors' book wrong - Stuff

Hit & Run authors dispute NZDF account - RNZ

Nicky Hager talks to RT International - RT

NZ Defence Force response to Hit & Run book - Maori Television

Nicky Hager says even if a botched SAS raid in Afghanistan did take place in another area, as the NZDF has said today, it "doesn't change anything" - One News

Nicky Hager "Defence Force doesn't want inquiry" - RadioLive

Hit and Run: What are crucial differences in authors’ vs Defence Force version of events? - The Spinoff

Nicky Hager: NZDF keen to stop an inquiry, confusing people - Newstalk ZB

Live: Defence Force hits back at Hit and Run claims -Stuff

Video: 'Revenge was never a driver' - NZDF rebut Nicky Hager's Hit and Run Afghanistan raid allegations - One News

Watch: Chief of Defence Force faces media over SAS allegations - NZ Herald

Live video: NZDF addresses Hit & Run claims - RNZ

Defence Force chief: Civilian casualties may have occurred during NZ-led raid in Afghanistan - Newstalk ZB

New Zealand Defence Force deny Afghan raid accusations - Newshub

'Revenge was never a driver': NZDF addresses Hit & Run claims - RNZ

Dispute over Afghan death claims - and PM still open to inquiry - The Wireless

Why we need to care about the war crime allegations out of Afghanistan - Waatea News

Damning Afghanistan war report criticises lack of planning for NZ deployment - Stuff

No inquiry into alleged war crimes: PM - NZ Herald

Bill English continues to back Defence Force over SAS claims, refuses to launch inquiry - One News

Dave Armstrong: Where was the caution at time of raid? - Stuff

Video: PM not 'ruling out' inquiry on Afghan raid claims - RNZ

Vigil at Parliament after SAS allegations - NZ Herald

Our faulty war: the Afghanistan report they fought to keep secret - NZ Herald

The Hit & Run stakes just got even higher. Here are the rival views, from NZ Defence and Hager/Stephenson - The Spinoff

Defence Force says Hager's book is incorrect, Hager stands by claims - National Business review

Military chief: Hit & Run has 'major inaccuracies' - Newstalk ZB

Nothing To Them. Tim Keating hits back at “Hit & Run” - The Daily Blog

Hager rejects NZDF claim he is wrong - NZ Newswire

Vigil at Parliament after SAS allegations - NZ Herald

Vigil held outside Parliament calling for SAS inquiry - Newstalk ZB

Barry Soper: Leaders under pressure - NZ Herald

UN and Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission report confirms civilian casualties in NZDF Operation Burnham - Human Rights Foundation

Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Stephen Mills - RNZ

The Soap Box: Inquiry the only option to deal with SAS allegations - Newstalk ZB

10 stinging criticisms of our military mission to Afghanistan - and a rejection of those claims - NZ Herald

Lloyd Burr: Six ways the Defence Force can disprove Hit & Run once and for all - Newshub

Bill English says SAS inquiry unlikely after Defence Force attacks Hit and Run 'inaccuracies'  - Stuff

Hit & Run author to NZDF: 'Put up or shut up' - Newshub

Defence Force chief slams 'major inaccuracies' in SAS Afghanistan allegations - Stuff

Shelved Afghanistan review found 113 flaws - NZ Newswire