The New Zealand Defence Force is today responding to allegations made by Stuff about a long range reconnaissance patrol carried out by the NZSAS in Afghanistan in 2004.
FILE PHOTO (unrelated): New Zealand Army soldiers rappel from a Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter during Exercise Southern Katipo 2015. NZDF photo.
The allegations were made in a documentary by Stuff called The Valley, broadcast in September 2017. The journalists accused NZSAS forces of committing offences during the patrol, named Op Quested 1.
This media advisory contains a summary of the allegations and the conclusions of a legal review carried out by the New Zealand Defence Force. Further details are in the questions and answers attached. The Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short is available for interview.
In summary the documentary alleged:
- That the NZSAS provoked a contact by aggressive interaction with villagers.
- That members of the NZSAS mistreated dead bodies.
- That members of the NZSAS damaged civilian property.
- That members of the NZSAS unreasonably detained and mistreated civilians.
During the course of the examination of the allegations and the events that took place two further matters were raised:
- A member of the NZSAS patrol raised concerns about the conduct of a fellow member of the patrol and their treatment of a civilian detainee;
- Additionally the circumstances around the death of an Afghan male – not mentioned in The Valley – have been examined and details are today being released.
A review by Defence Legal Services has found:
- That there is no information to suggest that the NZSAS deliberately provoked the firefight;
- There is no information to suggest the NZSAS mistreated dead bodies;
- There is insufficient information to conclude if property was damaged;
During the inquiry into the allegation that members of the patrol mistreated civilians, it was found that the conduct of one individual, whom we are not naming, fell below the standard the NZDF would expect of a professional soldier but the allegation did not reach the evidential threshold required to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Regarding the death of an Afghan male, not reported by Stuff, the legal review found that he was killed by shrapnel from a Coalition aircraft. There is no information to suggest he was deliberately targeted nor that, as a casualty, he was treated in any way other than in accordance with New Zealand’s international obligations.
Next steps for the NZDF
Despite the findings of the review, in order to ensure best practice, on Monday the Chief of Defence Force ordered:
- A review of NZDF training to ensure the ongoing best practice in the treatment of civilians, detainees, and casualty management
- Additional training on obligations to report issues in a timely manner;
- That a specific policy covering incidental civilian casualties be developed.
It should be noted that this patrol was the one during which Corporal Willy Apiata was awarded his VC. None of the allegations relate to him.