Should the govt investigate the Hager/Stephenson war crime claims?
UPDATED: Hit and Run co-author Nicky Hager tells NBR he’s surprised and disappointed the Prime Minister has ruled out an inquiry into the allegations made in the book.
“Both John Stephenson and I said, when the book came out, we were glad that it wasn’t coming out when John Key was Prime Minister, as he was involved in the issues … it would have become a political battle.”
Mr Hager says he’d hoped Mr English would have taken “a different line… because he was neutral.”
Asked what he thinks about the Prime Minister calling the book a “wildly inaccurate piece of journalism,” Mr Hagar shrugs it off.
“Every reasonable person knows that apart from one essentially irrelevant little map error, which is similar to the one Defence made themselves about where the location was, nothing else in the book was found to be wrong.”
He says he and Mr Stephenson had talked to some of the book’s sources about the possibility of coming forward if there was an independent inquiry and there was some kind of protection.
“I would not recommend it to them now, but I think it’s perfectly possible in the future when the country inevitably has to face up to it.”
Mr Hager says the issue is not going to go away and he’s “almost certain that it is going to fester away.”
EARLIER: Prime Minister Bill English has ruled out an official inquiry into the allegations made in Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson's book Hit & Run.
In his post-cabinet press conference this afternoon, Mr English says he came to the decision an inquiry wasn't needed after a briefing with New Zealand Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating.
Hit & Run alleges possible war crimes were committed by New Zealand troops in Afghanistan in 2010 and called for an inquiry into the SAS raids.
Late last week Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee received a detailed letter from Mr Keating stating he had reviewed all the documentation available about the operation, Mr English says.
This included material generated before, during, and after the operation, the rules of engagement and an executive summary of the 2010 investigation by the International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan Ministry of the Interior and the Afghan Ministry of Defence.
Mr Keating told the minister the material clearly shows the defence personnel involved in the operation took deliberate and careful steps to ensure that it was conducted according to the law of armed conflict, Mr English says.
The review also shows the operation was overseen by a defence force legal officer and that "personnel took all feasible precautions to minimise potential civilian casualties and the destruction of property".
Mr English says he was also given a detailed briefing by Lieutenant General Keating and other senior officers.
"After considering Lieutenant General Tim Keating's briefing, his letter to Mr Brownlee and viewing video footage of the operation, I have concluded there is no basis for ordering an inquiry," Mr English says.
On the book, Mr English says the allegations are "wide-ranging and fundamentally flawed' and he calls it a "wildly inaccurate" piece of journalism.
Earlier today he told RNZ's Morning Report that the defence force has already rebutted some “pretty basic” claims that were made in the book, such as the locations of the raids.
And the day after the book was made public and he had talked to officials, Mr English said there “does not appear to be anything new in these allegations and a lot of them are couched pretty conditionally, even by the authors themselves.”
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