The Independent’s Holly Bancroft scoops Amnesty International award

The Independent’s Holly Bancroft scoops Amnesty International award

The Independent‘s social affairs correspondent, Holly Bancroft, has won an Amnesty International award for her reporting on the fate of Afghan soldiers who fought with UK forces.

Her powerful joint investigation with Sky News and Lighthouse Reports uncovered evidence that soldiers who were trained, paid by and worked “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the British Army were left to face torture and death at the hands of the Taliban.

The story was chosen as winner of the written news category at the Amnesty International UK Media Awards 2024 on Thursday.

The investigation proved for the first time that the troops – known as the “Triples” – had been paid by the British government and had been systematically denied help by the UK after the fall of Kabul in 2021.

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Afghan soldiers who had fought with British forces were denied relocation after the fall of Kabul (Supplied)

As a result of the reporting, the Ministry of Defence has begun a review of 2,000 resettlement applications and an amendment was tabled to the Safety of Rwanda Bill to try and prevent asylum seekers who helped UK forces from being deported to Rwanda.

Ms Bancroft said: “We are really pleased to win this award and hope that this recognition will increase pressure on the government to review all cases of Triples commandos who they rejected for UK relocation.

“Ministers promised to look again at 2,000 cases following our reporting and we are still waiting to see the results of this review.”

Ms Bancroft worked to track down many former soldiers, speaking to more than 100 of these individuals and documenting what had happened to them since the Taliban takeover.

Most had applied to the UK’s Afghan relocation scheme (ARAP) but had been rejected or received no response, and were living in deep hiding in Afghanistan. By gathering as much evidence as possible, the investigation was able to verify to a high degree of certainty 24 cases of harm, six of which were murders.

Riaz Ahmadzai, who had worked with British forces, was among those killed by the Taliban (Supplied)

In one emotional interview, the father of Riaz Ahmadzai – a former Triple – told how his son had been shot dead while out buying groceries, despite being promised safety by the Taliban.

“Riaz got killed because of this previous work with British forces. For trusting British forces, he paid the price with his life,” Mr Ahmadzai’s father said.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, said: “The events of this year serve as a potent reminder that journalists and media workers continue to be threatened, prosecuted and even killed for speaking truth to power. It is clear that nowhere is truly safe for a journalist speaking truth to power right now.

Holly Bancroft was among those praised for her ‘tireless efforts’ to ‘truly make an impact on the world’ ( The Independent)

“However, amid the global threats to press freedom, tonight’s media awards winners and finalists have all proven that we will not be silenced. Their tireless efforts truly make an impact on the world, and if brave media workers continue to document, investigate, and share the stories of those who often have no voice, change will happen.”

The Independent editor-in-chief Geordie Greig said: “Brilliant reporting by Holly in The Independent has been recognised by Amnesty for her ability to pinpoint injustice and to force politicians to listen and to act.

“This is what campaigning journalism does best: to agitate against wrong decisions and acts. I am so proud of Holly for her incisive reporting with a determination to bring about change.”