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'War-crimes' complaint centred around role of chain of command, documents show

A Canadian special-forces soldier approached military overseers two years ago with complaints about "war crimes" in Afghanistan - a state of affairs he suggested could only be corrected if the ultra-secret JTF2 unit were pulled from the conflict.

These allegations, never proved, lay the basis for the so-called Sand Trap investigation that is now probing accountability within Canada's most secretive military unit.

Reports of the probe have been circulating for months, but the specifics have always been swathed in official secrecy.

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Partially censored documents that mention the soldier's specific complaints, however, have been released under the Access to Information Act by the military Ombudsman's office. The documents were first acquired by the CBC.

"The only solution, he finds, is the pulling of JTF2 from that operation. He adds that he feels more and more of his peers are being encouraged to commit war crimes by the chain of command," reads a portion of the documents.

"He says this intervention was not aimed at having 'the guys who pulled the trigger' investigated. They are being incited to do these things by the chain of command," the documents say.

The Ombudsman's office did not examine these complaints. The soldier was told the allegations needed to be referred to another military body that could pursue more serious criminal investigations.

The overarching Sand Trap investigation actually consists of two distinct probes.

The first is a complaint that Canadian special-forces soldiers wrongly killed an unarmed Afghan - a charge that was investigated internally and found to be without merit by the military.

The second complaint was that the Canadian special-forces soldiers witnessed an American-led unit's involvement in a wrongful fatal shooting, but failed to report it to the Canadian chain of command. This probe is ongoing.

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The new documents say the military is treating the Sand Trap investigation as a top priority.

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About the Author
National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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