Afghanistan – Australia to investigate possible war crimes

A special prosecutor will investigate possible war crimes perpetrated by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

Elite Australian commandos were deployed to Afghanistan alongside the United States and its allies in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

AFP

Australia on Thursday announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate reports of possible war crimes perpetrated by Australian special forces against civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, citing accusations of “serious and possibly criminal misconduct”, made the decision to have this case settled in Australia, in order to anticipate any possible referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Elite Australian commandos were deployed to Afghanistan alongside the United States and its allies in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Since then, Australian media have reported on a number of very serious accusations against Australian forces, whether involving a man who was allegedly shot down to make room in a helicopter, or the death of a six-year-old child in a raid on a house. The government had initially sought to shut down the accounts of whistleblowers reporting these accusations, while the police attacked investigative journalists relaying them.

For his part, the Inspector General of the Australian Defense Forces conducted a four-year investigation into “rumors and allegations” of “possible breaches of the law of war”. These investigations identified 55 separate incidents related to the unlawful killing of “people who were not combatants or who were no longer combatants”, as well as “cruel treatment”. Scott Morrison said a drafted version of the Inspector General’s report would be made public in the coming days.

«Afghan files»

The appointment of a prosecutor is a new step in the judicialization of these charges. It could one day lead to prosecution of members of the armed forces. “The men and women engaged and the current and past defense forces share the expectations and aspirations of Australians for our defense forces and how they carry out their mission,” said Scott Morrison.

“It demands that we face the honest and blunt truths if expectations and standards have not been met,” he said. He added that an independent panel had been set up to improve the culture within the armed forces. The affair erupted in 2017, when the public channel ABC published the “Afghan files”, a series of investigations that accused Australian forces of having killed unarmed men and children in Afghanistan.

The police had in response opened an investigation into two ABC journalists, Daniel Oakes and Sam Clark, suspected of having had in their possession classified information. A search had even taken place last year at the headquarters of the chain in Sydney, before the investigation was closed.

AFP/NXP

Posted today at 06:13

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