Defence officials have told Parliament that preventing "revenge-driven retaliation" was partly behind the $10,000 payments to the families of each of the Afghani men slain by our crack SAS unit during a raid in Kabul.
Two civilians, Mohammad Sadiq and Abdul Mobin, were shot dead by SAS troopers in December 2010 during a raid on a factory in the Afghanistan capital.
The pair were killed as they carried out their duties as security guards and were not linked to the Taliban or other enemies of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, of which New Zealand is a part.
The payments were discussed during briefings with Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and trade committee late last year.
The committee's post-briefing six-page report - obtained by the Sunday Star-Times - said: "The ex gratia payments were consistent with rules of engagement, and were not considered to be compensation. It is practice in Afghanistan, and in other parts of the world, to make payments to families of those killed, in order to prevent revenge-driven retaliation."
The building targeted by the raid was operated by Afghan Tiger Group; a logistic supply company which serviced westerners.
Following the deaths of Sadiq and Mobin, Colonel Mohammed Zahir - director of criminal investigations for the Kabul police - told the New York Times that the slayings were "murder".
"I have seen a lot of cases of violence but I have not seen an incident where they kill civilians like this for no reason," he told the New York Times.
Defence Force officials would not elaborate further to the Sunday Star-Times, saying all its documents on the raid were "classified". Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones (whose three-year term ended in January) was quizzed by the committee and said the soldiers responded to an attack.
"[Jones] had reviewed video evidence and is confident the soldiers identified themselves before they were shot at."
Labour MP and defence spokesman Phil Goff, a member of the seven-MP select committee, said the $10,000 payments to both the Sadiq and Mobin families were an acknowledgement that the men "were in fact innocent and had been shot in error".
"I don't think there is any suspicion that these guys were terrorists; they were security guards doing their job," Goff said.
"But it seems that there was a mis-communication and I think the argument was that they had fired first on the SAS, not knowing who the SAS was.
"And the shots [from the SAS] were then in retaliation.
"They were in effect wrongfully killed, although in the circumstances it is possible to see how that misunderstanding occurred," Goff said.
"Where there is an element of wrongdoing on our side, even though it was inadvertent in this case, compensation is owed to the families of the victims."
- Sunday Star Times
Should David Cunliffe lead Labour again?Related story: Cunliffe, Robertson trade blows