Government faces High Court proceedings over alleged civilian deaths in Afghanistan
A human rights lawyer has filed proceedings against the government over the decision not to hold an inquiry into a military operation that allegedly killed civilians in Afghanistan.
Deborah Manning confirmed she had filed a request for a judicial review of the decision in the High Court at Wellington on Friday morning.
Investigative journalists Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager wrote about operation in their 2016 book, Hit and Run.
They alleged the raid, known as Operation Burnham, had killed six Afghan villagers and injured 15.
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Stephenson referred the villagers to Manning after they approached him for help in 2016.
Manning said she was in regular contact with them, and believed they had the right to an "independent and effective" inquiry.
"The toughest thing for those who suffer trauma or abuse is for people to say it didn't happen," she said at a press conference in Auckland.
"They continue to suffer to this day from the devastating effects of that evening."
Her team was dealing with claims from three Afghans – two from the village of Khak Khuday Dad and one from the village of Naik. Both villages are in Baghlan Province.
Rodney Harrison QC, who is working with Manning and Richard McLeod, said the team sought the judicial review of the Government's decision to refer the case to the chief of the Defence Force. It was he who decided not to stage an inquiry into Operation Burnham.
"We say the the chief of the Defence Force was the wrong person to make that decision, and that the decision he did make – to do nothing – was flawed because he had already taken up the position that the allegations were unfounded," Harrison said.
Prime Minister Bill English said in April that there was "no basis" for ordering an inquiry and the war crimes allegations looked "quite far-fetched".
He said classified video confirmed that NZDF personnel took all necessary precautions to ensure minimal opportunity for civilian casualties and destruction of property.
Manning practises in refugee, immigration and human rights law, and also serves as an executive member of the Refugee Council.
She previously acted as a senior legal consultant to Geneva human rights group Al Karama (Dignity), which represents victims of human rights violations in the Arab region.