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Johnny Mercer challenging order to hand over whistleblower names

Johnny Mercer challenging order to hand over whistleblower names

Johnny Mercer has said he is challenging an order to hand over the names of those who told him about alleged special forces murders in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan Inquiry chairman Sir Charles Haddon-Cave gave the veterans’ minister until April 5 to hand over the names or face a potential prison sentence of up to two years. He had until today to appeal that instruction.

During Mr Mercer’s evidence to the inquiry last month, the chairman said his decision to “refuse to answer legitimate questions… at a public inquiry” were “disappointing… surprising… and completely unacceptable”.

Johnny Mercer said the ‘one thing you can hold on to is your integrity’ (PA Wire)
Johnny Mercer said the ‘one thing you can hold on to is your integrity’ (PA Wire)

It came after Mr Mercer repeatedly refused to hand over names of “multiple officers” who told him about allegations of murder and a cover-up during his time as a backbench MP.

The Plymouth MP on Tuesday posted on X: “I am aware of tomorrow’s deadline from the Afghan Inquiry order that requires me to name the whistleblowers who confided in me.

“I am submitting an application to challenge the order under section 21(4) of the Inquiries Act 2005 seeking to have the Section 21 notice set aside.

“It would not be appropriate to comment further.”

The one thing you can hold on to is your integrity and I will be doing that with these individuals

Veterans' Minister Johnny Mercer

Giving his reason for not disclosing the names, he told counsel to the inquiry Oliver Glasgow KC last month: “The one thing you can hold on to is your integrity and I will be doing that with these individuals.”

The inquiry said Mr Mercer was served with a Section 21 notice on March 13, compelling him to hand over the names, which the inquiry has said will be “treated in confidence”.

In the order, the chairman said the consequences of failing to comply without reasonable excuse would be “a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment and/or a fine”.

The independent inquiry into allegations of unlawful killings by UK special forces in Afghanistan began on Monday (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)
The independent inquiry into allegations of unlawful killings by UK special forces in Afghanistan began on Monday (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Archive)

Before giving him the order, Sir Charles had told the minister: “You need to decide which side you are really on, Mr Mercer.

He accused the minister, who served in the Special Boat Service (SBS) task force in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2009, of having a “misguided understanding of the term integrity and an inappropriate sense of loyalty” by refusing to name names.

The inquiry is examining whether a special forces unit, known to the probe as UKSF1, had a policy of executing males of “fighting age” who posed no threat in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013.

Afghan families have accused UK special forces of conducting a “campaign of murder” against civilians, while senior officers and personnel at the Ministry of Defence have been accused of seeking to “prevent adequate investigation”.

Two Royal Military Police investigations, codenamed Operation Northmoor and Operation Cestro, are set to be scrutinised by the inquiry.

No charges were brought under Operation Northmoor – a £10 million investigation which was set up in 2014 to examine allegations of executions by special forces, including those of children.

Operation Cestro saw three soldiers referred to the Service Prosecuting Authority, but none of them were prosecuted.

The inquiry continues.