Senior officer hid evidence of SAS war crimes in Afghanistan: BBC

Senior officer hid evidence of SAS war crimes in Afghanistan: BBC
Above, Afghan men stand beside a Soviet era tank along a hill road in Surobi district of Kabul province. A BBC program previously reported that between December 2010 and May 2011, one British special forces squadron was responsible for the deaths of 54 people in Afghanistan. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 November 2023
Follow

Senior officer hid evidence of SAS war crimes in Afghanistan: BBC

Senior officer hid evidence of SAS war crimes in Afghanistan: BBC
  • Investigation suggests allegations of extrajudicial killings hidden in classified documents by Gen. Gwyn Jenkins in 2011
  • UK law states any evidence of war crimes must be handed immediately to Royal Military Police

LONDON: A senior British general has been accused by the BBC of hiding evidence of possible war crimes committed by UK Special Forces in Afghanistan.

Gen. Gwyn Jenkins, currently the British Armed Forces’ second most senior officer, allegedly placed evidence that Special Air Service personnel had carried out extrajudicial killings of handcuffed Afghan detainees and unarmed civilians in a “classified” dossier in 2011 rather than notifying the Royal Military Police.

The revelations come with a judge-led public inquiry currently investigating allegations of war crimes by British Special Forces in Afghanistan during the country’s occupation by coalition forces.

According to the BBC’s “Panorama” program, Jenkins, a Special Forces colonel at the time heading the Special Boat Service, locked a file with key testimony alleging crimes away in a safe after first notifying his senior officer, Gen. Jonathan Page, then-head of the Special Forces, in April that year. Within a month, Jenkins was promoted to head all UK Special Forces in Afghanistan.

In March 2011, “Panorama” claims, Jenkins was told by a junior SBS officer that he had held a conversation with an SAS colleague in which it was stated that SAS units in Afghanistan were killing unarmed people and executing detainees during night raids, specifically targeting “fighting-age males” deemed to be aged 15 years or older, regardless of whether they posed a threat.

Jenkins is alleged to have told the SBS officer to write a formal statement on the matter, in which the officer said it had been suggested to him that the SAS had planted weapons on bodies after killing people, and “in one case it was mentioned a pillow was put over the head of an individual being killed with a pistol.”

Upon receiving the dossier, “Panorama” said Jenkins informed Page of the matter under the subject line “ALLEGATIONS OF EJK (extrajudicial killings) BY UKSF (UK Special Forces).”

In the correspondence, Jenkins told Page that he had been aware of allegations against SAS personnel “for some time,” had heard rumors of “summary executions of supposed Taliban affiliates,” and added: “I have now been given more information of a nature which makes me seriously concerned for the reputation of (UK Special Forces).”

Jenkins said he felt “most strongly that thorough investigation is warranted” as an “unofficial policy” of killing males aged 15 and older appeared to have been employed repeatedly, and “in some instances this has involved the deliberate killing of individuals after they have been restrained by (the SAS) and the subsequent fabrication of evidence to suggest a lawful killing in self-defence.”

He concluded: “My instinct is that this merits deeper investigation, hopefully to put minds at rest … or at worst to put a stop to criminal behaviour.”

A day later, Jenkins set up a classified file known as a “controlled-access security compartment,” which limited access to the testimony to a handful of Special Forces senior officers, labeled: “Anecdotal evidence suggesting (extrajudicial killings) have been carried out by members of (the SAS) in Afghanistan.”

The official reason for doing so was that “dissemination of the information protected by this Compartment could cause severe damage to the reputation of (Special Forces), could prejudice further investigation, and could disrupt current operations.”

The existence of the dossier only became known to the RMP after a whistleblower informed officers four years later.

UK law states, under the 2006 Armed Forces Act, that any evidence of war crimes must be immediately handed to the RMP.

In response to Jenkins’ concerns, Page issued a review into SAS tactics and appointed a Special Forces investigator who, the BBC said, failed to interview any witnesses outside of the Armed Forces, and did not visit the sites of the incidents in question.

In his review, which was conducted over the course of just one week, the investigator — a Special Forces major who had recently led a squad in Afghanistan — found no major issues and his findings were subsequently signed off by the commanding officer of the SAS unit accused of carrying out the suspicious killings, according to court documents.

In 2020, during a case at the High Court brought by several families of Afghans killed in SAS night raids, Col. Robert Morris said the classification of the testimony by Jenkins had for years stopped the RMP accessing key evidence during its investigations.

“Panorama” previously reported that between December 2010 and May 2011, one SAS squadron was responsible for the deaths of 54 people in Afghanistan in what the BBC called “suspicious circumstances.”

In 2012, Jenkins returned to the UK to serve as military assistant to then-Prime Minister David Cameron until 2014.

That year, the RMP opened an investigation into the SAS squadron in question. No charges were brought.

RMP personnel told the BBC that during the investigation, officers were prevented from interviewing important witnesses or collecting forensic evidence. They were also told, they claim, to drop investigations into key suspects.

The Ministry of Defence told the BBC that it was fully committed to supporting the public inquiry launched in 2022, and that it would not be appropriate to comment on any allegations while the inquiry was ongoing.


Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza
Updated 31 sec ago
Follow

Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

Italy foreign minister urges ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza
ROME: Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani called Thursday for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza and called on Israel to protect the Palestinian population after troops opened fire at an aid convoy.
“The tragic deaths in Gaza demand an immediate ceasefire to facilitate more humanitarian aid, the release of hostages and the protection of civilians,” he said on X, hours after the incident which the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said killed 104 people.
“We strongly urge Israel to protect the people in Gaza and to rigorously ascertain facts and responsibilities,” he said.
The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of Gazans surrounded a convoy of 30 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over by the lorries.
An Israeli source acknowledged troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it “posed a threat.”
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “deep dismay and concern” over the violence, calling on Israel to “urgently ascertain the dynamics of the incident and relative responsibilities.”
She also called for negotiation efforts to be “immediately intensified to create the conditions for a ceasefire” and the freeing of the hostages.

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi
Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi

India’s economy grows at its fastest pace in six quarters in election boost for Modi
  • India’s economy grew 8.4% in the October-December quarter, much faster than 6.6% estimate
  • India has beaten market expectations, is ranked as one of fastest-growing economies in the world

NEW DELHI: India’s economy grew at its fastest pace in one-and-half years in the final three months of 2023, led by strong manufacturing and construction activity and bolstering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s economic record just months before a national election.
Asia’s third largest economy grew 8.4 percent in the October-December quarter, much faster than the 6.6 percent estimated by economists polled by Reuters and higher than the 7.6 percent recorded in the previous three months.
“The ongoing growth momentum is indicative of the Indian economy’s resilience, notwithstanding global headwinds,” said Sunil Kumar Sinha, economist at India Ratings, noting that industrial growth continued its good run in the quarter.
India has consistently beat market expectations and is ranked as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with China struggling to recover after the pandemic and the euro zone narrowly escaping a recession.
India revised its growth estimate for the current fiscal year to March 31 to 7.6 percent from 7.3 percent.
Such a strong showing in the last major economic data release before elections due by May could bolster Modi’s chances after he made high economic growth one of his main platforms at rallies across the country.
The December growth “shows the strength of Indian economy and its potential,” Modi said in a social media post.
Modi has sharply raised government spending on infrastructure and offered incentives to boost manufacturing of phones, electronics, drones and semiconductors to help India compete with likes of Vietnam and Thailand.
The manufacturing sector, which for the past decade has accounted for 17 percent of Asia’s third-largest economy, expanded 11.6 percent year-on-year in the December quarter, while investment growth was above 10 percent for the second consecutive quarter, and the construction sector grew by more than 9 percent.
“Manufacturing sector growth was supported by lower input costs,” said Rajani Sinha, Economist at CareEdge
Private consumption, accounting for 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), recovered slightly in the quarter, with a 3.5 percent year-on-year rise, compared with 2.4 percent in the previous three months.
Government spending contracted 3.2 percent year-on-year, compared with 1.4 percent growth in the previous quarter.
RURAL WEAKNESS
The farm sector, which accounts for about 15 percent of the $3.7 trillion economy, continued to struggle due to unfavorable monsoon rains. It contracted 0.8 percent in the December quarter, compared with 1.6 percent growth in the September quarter.
Slowing rural growth dragged down farm incomes and some farmers have hit the streets
demanding higher procurement prices.
Rural weakness has led to slower growth for major retail companies like Hindustan Unilever and Britannia Industries.
The pace of growth in real rural wages was around 1 percent in 2023 after contracting nearly 3 percent in the previous two years, according to ICRA, while average salaries in urban areas have been going up by nearly 10 percent a year.
However, policymakers remain optimistic about rural recovery.
“With the anticipated better value addition in the farm sector next financial year, rural demand growth and rural income growth will be even better and more evident in FY25,” country’s Chief Economic Adviser V Anantha Nageswaran said.


Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai

Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai
Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai

Indonesian artists seek to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics at Art Dubai
  • 17th edition of Art Dubai runs from March 1-3 in Madinat Jumeirah
  • Over 65% of the fair’s presentations are from the Global South

Jakarta: Indonesian artists are hoping to amplify Southeast Asian aesthetics in the Middle East with their showcase at Art Dubai this week, where they will join a diverse group of Global South artists from 40 countries.

The 17th edition of Art Dubai, which runs from March 1 to 3 in Madinat Jumeirah, will showcase leading artists and galleries from developing countries, as it seeks to provide a platform for art from typically underrepresented regions and communities. This year, over 65 percent of its presentations are drawn from the Global South.

Indonesia’s artists, represented by various galleries such as Gajah Gallery and Yeo Workshop, are among a group of Southeast Asian creatives presenting works focused on the region’s heritage.

Erizal As, a painter from Indonesia’s West Sumatra province, is hoping that Dubai will help boost the global visibility of his, and other Southeast Asian artists’ work.

“I am indeed hopeful to garner greater recognition in the Middle East, a region experiencing rapid growth and burgeoning appreciation for the arts. I am confident that the universal themes and expressive depth of my work will resonate with the discerning Gulf audience, fostering a meaningful dialogue transcending cultural boundaries,” Erizal told Arab News on Thursday.

“I also think that the inclusion of more Indonesian and Southeast Asian artists may bring a fresh perspective to the local art scene … Maybe the different visual language that we bring actually has the same soul or essence as what Dubai has been feeling and communicating through their arts. The two visual languages can communicate with each other.”

After spending the COVID-19 years painting outdoors in the West Sumatra mountains, Erizal returned to his studio to transform his experiences into a series of abstract paintings, presenting various forms through texture and strokes, to capture the essence of nature. Some of those works are being showcased in Dubai this week.

“With my recent creations, my foremost aspiration is to evoke contemplation on the intrinsic essence of nature, spirituality, and the profound energy that permeates our existence,” Erizal said.

Yunizar, who is also from West Sumatra and is known for his childlike creations seeking to capture the psyche of ordinary individuals, will present his paintings and bronze sculptures at Art Dubai.

“My work depicts my observations of life around me. I mix visualizations of objects with things that are fantastical in nature,” Yunizar told Arab News.

Indonesian artist Yunizar working on his “Detail of Bonsai,” 2021. (Gajah Gallery)

He believes in the “common relatability towards art between humankind everywhere” and hopes to amplify the reach of his work at the international art fair.

“Dubai, in my opinion, has a burgeoning art scene with a rich cultural background that can support the development of new visual trajectories. Showcasing my work on such a global scale, I can only strive and attempt to deliver my best work,” he said.

“I believe that my work transcends cultural boundaries and reverberate with viewers from diverse backgrounds. In terms of quality, my work is not less than that of artists from other regions, such as those from Europe. And with its rich visual language and unmistakable Southeast Asian essence, in my opinion, my art will find resonance among the Gulf audience, fostering meaningful dialogue and appreciation for art across borders.”


Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped

Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped
Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped

Amnesty welcomes news NGO ship crew charges could be dropped
  • Crew of Iuventa charged with ‘facilitating irregular immigration to Italy from Libya’
  • Prosecution said this week a lack of evidence means case should be dismissed

London: Amnesty International has welcomed news that charges against the crew of NGO ship the Iuventa, which worked to rescue thousands of people from the Mediterranean, could be dropped.

An investigation was opened by Italian authorities in 2017 into the activities of the Iuventa. Four crew members were eventually charged with “facilitating irregular immigration to Italy from Libya,” amid suggestions that they had collaborated with people traffickers, with possible sentences of up to 20 years in jail.

A court in the Italian city of Trapani is set to rule on whether the crew, alongside members of Medecins Sans Frontieres and Save the Children, will be indicted on Saturday, but on Wednesday prosecutors said a lack of evidence meant the charges should be dropped.

“The Iuventa crew has endured six and a half years of court proceedings with unfaltering grace and resilience, and we are glad that there is new hope that the court case will finally be thrown out,” said Elisa De Pieri, regional researcher at Amnesty International.

“The Iuventa ship has saved more than 14,000 lives, including children, and its crew has done so upholding the law of the sea.

“We urge the authorities to stop misusing criminal proceedings and charges of facilitation of irregular migration to obstruct life-saving activities.

“Humanity must come first as we recognize the fearlessness of the Iuventa crew and others who work to battle the horrors that take place in the treacherous waters across the Mediterranean.

“Their acts of solidarity with refugees and migrants should be championed and never be punished. Without them, the already horrific death toll in the central Mediterranean would only get worse.”


Russia’s Putin warns West of risk of nuclear war, says Moscow can strike Western targets

Russia’s Putin warns West of risk of nuclear war, says Moscow can strike Western targets
Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

Russia’s Putin warns West of risk of nuclear war, says Moscow can strike Western targets

Russia’s Putin warns West of risk of nuclear war, says Moscow can strike Western targets
  • War in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin told Western countries on Thursday they risked provoking a nuclear war if they sent troops to fight in Ukraine, warning that Moscow had the weapons to strike targets in the West.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the worst crisis in Moscow’s relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Putin has previously spoken of the dangers of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, but his nuclear warning on Thursday was one of his most explicit.
Addressing lawmakers and other members of the country’s elite, Putin, 71, repeated his accusation that the West was bent on weakening Russia, and he suggested Western leaders did not understand how dangerous their meddling could be in what he cast as Russia’s own internal affairs.
He prefaced his nuclear warning with a specific reference to an idea, floated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, of European NATO members sending ground troops to Ukraine — a suggestion that was quickly rejected by the United States, Germany, Britain and others.
“(Western nations) must realize that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilization. Don’t they get that?!” said Putin.
Speaking ahead of a March 15-17 presidential election when he is certain to be re-elected for another six-year term, he lauded what he said was Russia’s vastly modernized nuclear arsenal, the largest in the world.
“Strategic nuclear forces are in a state of full readiness,” he said, noting that new-generation hypersonic nuclear weapons he first spoke about in 2018 had either been deployed or were at a stage where development and testing were being completed.
Visibly angry, Putin suggested Western politicians recall the fate of those like Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler and France’s Napoleon Bonaparte who had unsuccessfully invaded Russia in the past.
“But now the consequences will be far more tragic,” said Putin. “They think it (war) is a cartoon,” he said, accusing Western politicians of forgetting what real war meant because they had not faced the same security challenges as Russians had in the last three decades.
MORE TROOPS FOR WESTERN BORDER
Russian forces now have the initiative on the battlefield in Ukraine and are advancing in several places, Putin said. Russia must also boost the troops it has deployed along its western borders with the European Union after Finland and Sweden decided to join the NATO military alliance, he added.
The veteran Kremlin leader dismissed Western suggestions that Russian forces might go beyond Ukraine and attack European countries as “nonsense.” He also said Moscow would not repeat the mistake of the Soviet Union and allow the West to “drag” it into an arms race that would eat up too much of its budget.
“Therefore, our task is to develop the defense-industrial complex in such a way as to increase the scientific, technological and industrial potential of the country,” he said.
Putin said Moscow was open to discussions on nuclear strategic stability with the United States but suggested that Washington had no genuine interest in such talks and was more focused on making false claims about Moscow’s alleged aims.
“Recently there have been more and more unsubstantiated accusations against Russia, for example that we are allegedly going to deploy nuclear weapons in space. Such innuendo... is a ploy to draw us into negotiations on their terms, which are favorable only to the United States,” he said.
“...On the eve of the US presidential election, they simply want to show their citizens and everyone else that they still rule the world.”