No charges over Taleban body-part souvenirs

Picture: AP
Picture: AP
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NO CHARGES are to be brought against three British service personnel who were accused of keeping the body parts from dead Taleban fighters as “souvenirs” after returning from their tours of duty in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence announced yesterday that an independent investigation into three members of the armed forces had concluded that no further action should be pursued, due to insufficient evidence.

The allegations sparked widespread controversy when they came to light in 2011.

Initially, they centred on one soldier from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, but it emerged from a Freedom of Information request that the official investigation focused on two further individuals.

The allegations centred on the Scottish battalion’s tour of duty in Afghanistan between September 2010 and April 2011, as part of Operation Herrick 13, and included claims that fingers of members of the Taleban were collected and kept as “trophies”.

After the claims came to light, veterans’ groups and other armed forces organisations expressed their shock at the allegations, while political leaders called for “quick action” to look into the highly sensitive issue.

British soldiers serving in operational theatres overseas are governed by the military criminal justice system. If charged, the three individuals would have faced a court martial. The case was referred to the independent Service Prosecuting Authority, which investigated the three service personnel for the offence of “outrages upon personal dignity,” under the War Crimes section (Article 8) of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, (Elements of Crime) Regulations 2004.

In response to a request for information, the MoD said: “After consideration, the director of Service Prosecutions directed that no charges should be brought against any of the three individuals, due to insufficient evidence.”

The MoD said “internal administrative action” was also considered against the three individuals but the information relating to this was not released because it is protected by the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998.

It is understood that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders soldier was on his first operational tour at the time. The removal of parts of the corpse is regarded as a deeply offensive practice under Islamic law.