Mercer challenging order to give names to inquiry

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Johnny MercerGetty Images

Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer has said he is challenging an order to hand over the names of those who told him about alleged war crimes by British special forces in Afghanistan.

Mr Mercer had until 5 April to provide a witness statement with the names to an independent inquiry.

Failure to comply could result in a jail sentence or fine, the MP for Plymouth Moor View was told.

However, he said he was submitting an application to challenge the order.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further,” Mr Mercer added in a post on X.

A spokesperson for the inquiry said it had received the application which would be considered by the inquiry’s chairman, with a decision given in due course.

Mr Mercer was served with a Section 21 notice under the Inquiries Act 2005 last month.

The order compels him to hand over the names, which the Independent Inquiry relating to Afghanistan has insisted will be “treated in confidence”.

He had until 3 April to make written submissions explaining why he believes the order is unreasonable, or he is unable to comply with it.

The inquiry is investigating whether British special forces murdered civilians and unarmed people on night raids in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013.

In previous heated exchanges with counsel for the inquiry, Mr Mercer repeatedly refused to reveal the identities of whistleblowers who he said had warned him there might be truth to the allegations of extrajudicial killings by special forces.

Defending his decision not to disclose the names, he told the inquiry last month: “The one thing you can hold on to is your integrity and I will be doing that with these individuals.”

Mr Mercer served with a Special Boat Service (SBS) task force in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009.

He previously told the inquiry that he had received a direct account from a serving member of the SBS who said he had been asked to carry a “drop weapon” – which he explained were non-Nato weapons carried by UK Special Forces units that could be planted on the body of someone killed during a mission, to falsely suggest the unarmed victim had posed a threat to British troops.

Mr Mercer also refused to reveal to the inquiry the name of the SBS member asked to carry a drop weapon.

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