Johnny Mercer urged to 'do the right thing' and hand over evidence for Afghan war crime claims

28 March 2024, 11:48

Johnny Mercer has been urged to hand over evidence of alleged Afghanistan war crimes
Johnny Mercer has been urged to hand over evidence of alleged Afghanistan war crimes. Picture: Alamy
Henry Riley

By Henry Riley

Veterans minister Johnny Mercer has been urged provide evidence to back up allegations of war crimes that he has previously refused to disclose to an independent inquiry into Afghanistan.

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Mr Mercer previously claimed that he had received warnings that allegations of war crimes and extrajudicial killings by UK special forces may be true, but refused to name his sources.

It’s understood Mr Mercer, a former British Army captain who served in Afghanistan, has been served with a Section 21 notice under the Inquiries Act 2005 – which allows the chairman to demand evidence.

And the minister has been urged to supply the information by Lord Saville, the former UK Supreme Court Justice who chaired the long-running Bloody Sunday Inquiry, which concluded in 2010.

Lord Saville told LBC: “If it is likely to provide relevant information to the purposes of the inquiry, then it’s the right thing to do.”

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Lord Saville urges Johnny Mercer to hand over Afghanistan 'war crime' evidence

He added: “I can understand people being reluctant to give their sources, especially if they have promised not to, but the short answer is you want to be provided with everything that is related to your inquiry – that is common sense”.

The inquiry is investigating whether British special forces killed civilians and unarmed people on night raids in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013.

Mr Mercer previously claimed that a serving member of the Special Boat Service told him he was asked to carry a “drop weapon”. This is a non-NATO weapon carried by Special Forces units which can be planted on the body of someone killed during a mission to suggest they posed a threat.

Sir Charles Haddon-Cave, who is the chairman of the independent inquiry relating to Afghanistan, has warned the government minister that failure to comply without a reasonable excuse would be “a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment and / or a fine”.

Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer. Picture: Alamy

Commenting on the threat of imprisonment, Lord Saville told LBC that it was “a sanction open to a public inquiry” and that it will be used “if a witness fails to provide answers without a valid excuse”.

Sir Charles has said that the High Court could enforce the order through contempt of court proceedings, which “may result in imprisonment”.

Mr Mercer has been told that if he believes it “unreasonable” for him to hand over the names, or if he is unable to comply, he will have to make a submission in writing before 3rd April.

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He has also repeatedly refused to answer whether he agreed that the member of the SBS had important evidence to share with the inquiry, he claimed "multiple people have important evidence".

The inquiry chairman previously told the minister: 'You need to decide which side you are really on, Mr Mercer”.

Mr Mercer has been contacted for comment.