Australia inquiry finds troops ‘unlawfully killed’ dozens of Afghans

Nellie Chapman
November 19, 2020

"Some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed", Campbell said, apologising "sincerely and unreservedly" to the people of Afghanistan.

In response, Australian police launched an investigation into two ABC reporters for obtaining classified information - even raiding the broadcaster's Sydney headquarters past year, before dropping the case.

"Those alleged to have been unlawfully killed were. prisoners, farmers or other civilians".

Angus Campbell said Thursday the "shameful" record included alleged instances in which new patrol members would shoot a prisoner in order to achieve their first kill in a practice known as "blooding".

The high command provided details on an investigation into the conduct of special forces personnel who served in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, when soldiers arranged the scenes of their killings to claim that they were enemies killed in action. It found that none of the alleged crimes could be discounted as "disputable decisions made under pressure in the heat of battle". There are still about 80 personnel from the Australian Defense Forces in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense website, mostly involved in support and training.

Although it has been the subject of rumour, Australia's official investigation only began after the publication of classified documents about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

The matter first came to public attention in 2017 when national broadcaster ABC published the so-called "Afghan files", which alleged Australian troops had killed unarmed men and children in Afghanistan.

It recommended that Campbell refer 36 incidences to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation, involving a total of 19 individuals.

The report described the allegations as "a disgraceful and a profound betrayal of the Australian Defence Force's professional standards and expectations".

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The accused junior soldiers would then stage a skirmish to account for the incident, the report found.

The Brereton report recommended administrative action be taken against some serving ADF personnel where there is credible evidence of misconduct, but not enough for a criminal conviction.

"A substantial indirect responsibility falls upon those in the Special Air Service Regiment who embraced or fostered the "warrior culture" and the clique of non-commissioned officers who propagated it".

The office of the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, revealed in a Thursday tweet that Australian PM Scott Morrisson had called Ghani to apologize for the killings of Afghan citizens prior to the release of the report.

The report said the majority of those killed, which included prisoners, farmers and other Afghan locals, were captured when they were killed and therefore protected under worldwide law.

"The report contained some disturbing allegations and the Australian government was taking those allegations very seriously".

While Afghanistan has not commented directly on the report's findings, Ghani's office confirmed Morrison had phoned to express his "deepest sorrow".

The Brereton inquiry heard from more than 400 witnesses - among them former SAS paramedic Dusty Miller who with Three Squadron SAS, deployed to Afghanistan in 2012.

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