Prisoners killed as a “test of courage”: Australian soldiers are said to have committed war crimes in Afghanistan

According to an investigation report in Afghanistan, 25 members of an Australian special unit are responsible for the deaths of at least 39 prisoners and civilians.

“Shameful record” of an “egocentric warrior culture”: Angus Campbell, head of the Australian Defense Forces, presents the investigation report on the Afghanistan mission. (November 19, 2020)

Keystone / Mick Tsikas

According to an investigation report, Australian soldiers have committed war crimes while serving in Afghanistan.

25 members of a special unit had “unlawfully” killed at least 39 prisoners or civilians, said the chief of the Australian Defense Forces, Angus Campbell, on Thursday in Canberra when he published a report on the behavior of Australian soldiers in the war in Afghanistan. A “shameful balance sheet” of an “egocentric warrior culture” was revealed. The results indicated the “most serious violations” of military behavior and professional values.

For the report, the inspector general of the Australian military followed up on indications of unlawful killings and violations of international martial law between 2005 and 2016. More than 330 witnesses were heard and investigations opened in at least 55 cases.

Rules ignored and bent

The report outlines a culture of “toxic competitive thinking” within the task force that has led some soldiers to shorten procedures, ignore and bend rules, Campbell said. None of these “unlawful killings” happened “in the heat of the moment”. “Every person spoken to during this investigation understood the international law of war and the rules of engagement under which they were deployed.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last week that a special investigator would investigate alleged war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan and bring those responsible to justice. He had prepared his compatriots for revelations that were difficult to cope with – not just for active soldiers and veterans.

(SDA / chk)

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