Human rights lawyer Deborah Manning is acting for Afghan villagers caught up in SAS raids in Tirgiran Valley.
Afghan villagers caught up in controversial NZSAS mission Operation Burnham are taking legal action against a Government inquiry into the raid.
Human rights lawyer Deborah Manning is acting for Afghan villagers involved in the August 2010 incident, which is the subject of a Government inquiry being heard largely in secret.
Manning commenced legal action on behalf of the villagers at the Wellington High Court on Wednesday, applying for a judicial review of a ruling keeping most of the inquiry private.
She said at a press conference she was “confused and concerned” about the inquiry’s lack of transparency.
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“And now we can’t continue to engage in a meaningful way, because we’re not part of this process. That’s how it seems,” she said.
“We were arguing that the starting point should be openness and transparency, however we were unsuccessful in that.”
Manning said the inquiry had become skewed in favour of the Defence Force, which was being viewed as a victim of allegations; but she argued the real victims were the six individuals who died and 15 who were injured in Operation Burnham.
“We say that when someone’s life has been taken by the state, that triggers an obligation from the Government to have an investigation into how that life was taken, and to involve the family members and next of kin in that investigation.”
She pointed out it was the first time the Defence Force and SAS had had oversight of their operations overseas and civilian deaths; something that had already happened in other countries such as the United Kingdom.
Allegations about the SAS raids in Afghanistan have been swirling since at least 2014.
Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s 2017 book Hit & Run alleged six civilians died and 15 were injured, and the events were later covered up by the military.
The Government announced its inquiry last April.