Afghan villagers' lawyers take NZ Government to court over claims SAS involved in civilian deaths

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1 NEWS

Lawyers representing Afghan villagers allegedly caught up in a raid involving New Zealand soldiers are taking the Government to court, trying to force it to hold an independent investigation. 

Their lawyers are seeking an independent inquiry into claims made in a book written by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson.
Source: 1 NEWS

The move follows revelations in the book Hit and Run written by Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, claiming Afghan villagers were killed or injured in the 2010 raids involving New Zealand special forces.

The lawyers are taking the Chief of the Defence Force and the Attorney General to court. 

"The applicants have human rights to an inquiry," said Rodney Harrison QC.

Lawyer Deborah Manning said they filed proceedings in the Wellington High Court on behalf of the villagers this morning.

Authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson released the book in March, claiming the SAS were involved in the death of six Afghan civilians, including a child. 

The Government ordered the Defence Force to investigate, and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating said the investigation found that "in all respects the conduct of the New Zealand ground forces was exemplary".  

Mr Harrison said: "We say that the Chief of Defence Force was the wrong person to make that decision and the decision that he did make to do nothing was flawed."

1 NEWS wanted to talk to the Defence Force. It refused to comment because the matter is now before the courts. The Defence Minister, Mark Mitchell, gave a similar response. 

Prime Minister Bill English is questioning the timing of the court action. 

"You always expect something from Mr Hager in the run up to an election," he said.    

But the lawyers say dealing with clients in rural Afghanistan has taken time. 

"Our clients are living in a very difficult security situation. And so in cases like this logistics often dictate timeframes," Ms Manning said. 

The lawyers are now hoping to secure a court date in the next six months. 

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