Australia’s Afghanistan War Crimes Report Includes Evidence of 39 Murders by Special Forces

Report by the Chief of the Defence Force

A culture of secrecy, fabrication and deceit has cast a heavy shadow over the legacy of the Australian special forces deployment in Afghanistan, with a landmark inquiry recommending 19 soldiers be investigated by police for the “murder” of 39 prisoners and civilians, and the cruel treatment of two others.

The long-running probe found “credible information” that 25 current or former Australian Defence Force personnel were involved in the serious crimes, either carrying out the offences or at least being “accessories” to the incidents.

The report recommends a total of 36 incidents be referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for criminal investigation.

Even before these matters end up in court, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) believes the Federal Government should pay compensation to the families of victims in Afghanistan.

The heavily redacted findings of Major General Paul Brereton’s investigation, which took four and a half years to complete, were released in Canberra on Thursday by ADF Chief Angus Campbell.

General Campbell offered an apology for “any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers”, predominately the actions of some within the elite SAS.

“It is alleged that some patrols took the law into their own hands, rules were broken, stories concocted, lies told and prisoners killed,” he said.

Major General Brereton said none of the incidents being referred to the AFP could be discounted as “disputable decisions made under pressure in the heat of battle”.

“The cases in which it has been found that there is credible information of a war crime are ones where it was, or should have been, plain that the person killed was a non-combatant,” he said.

Soldiers told to kill prisoners in practice known as ‘blooding’

The inquiry said junior soldiers were often required by their patrol commanders to shoot prisoners to get their first kill.

This was a practice known as “blooding”.

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