Confirmation of suspected involvement of Australian soldiers in the killing of prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan
Australian military releases investigation report (International Viewpoint)
The Australian military recently released an investigation report of the country’s troops in Afghanistan, confirming that Australian soldiers are suspected of being involved in the killing of prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan. This incident triggered a shock in Australian society and widespread criticism from public opinion. The Australian government claimed that it would hold the people involved accountable, but many analysts expressed concern about whether the accountability could be implemented.
A survey released by the Australian military recently confirmed that 25 Australian soldiers are suspected of being involved in 23 killings of prisoners and civilians. Over the past few days, Australian politicians and the media have criticized and condemned. Australian media generally believe that there are many deep-seated problems behind the suspected war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, such as military-level supervision failure, concealment and failure to report.
Investigation report confirms the existence of abuse
According to a report released by the Office of the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force on November 19, a four-year investigation was conducted into whether Australian soldiers on mission in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2016 were suspected of war crimes. The investigation found that during their stay in Afghanistan, 25 active and former special forces soldiers were suspected of participating in 23 illegal killings in Afghanistan and covering up these crimes. In these incidents, a total of 39 innocent civilians and prisoners were killed and 2 others were ill-treated.
Rumors and allegations about suspected illegal killings of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan have a long history. Under the pressure of public opinion, the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force has officially launched an investigation into these allegations since 2016. Recently, the report released admitted for the first time that soldiers had committed sadistic killings in Afghanistan.
According to the report, investigators conducted 510 interviews with 423 witnesses and reviewed more than 20,000 documents and more than 25,000 pictures. The report was completed by Paul Brelton, a judge of the State of New South Wales, Rear Admiral of the Australian Army Reserve.
Australian media also disclosed a report written in 2016 by defense adviser Samantha Krumpwarts. It was this report that forced the military to launch a formal investigation. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the report of Krumpwarts contains many shocking findings, including the shooting of prisoners at the request of the commander to complete the first shooting training, the killing of a 14-year-old boy by special forces, the shooting of a 35-year-old father and his 6-year-old son while sleeping in the house, and the Helicopters shot prisoners due to insufficient space.
In view of the seriousness of the problem, Angus Campbell, the commander of the Australian Defence Force, had to apologize unreservedly to the Afghan people for the behavior of Australian soldiers and to the Australian public for war crimes.
“Shameful Page in Australian Military History”
The United States launched the war in Afghanistan in 2001, and Australia has maintained a military presence in post-war Afghanistan as part of the United States-led military alliance. According to the report, some suspected crimes occurred in 2009 and 2010, most of which occurred in 2012 and 2013. However, these bad acts were not only not reported in the first place, but were covered up for a long time.
The report found that Australian special forces soldiers put weapons or radio equipment beside the victims as evidence that the victims were “legal targets”. The report points out that these crimes occur because of the existence of an unfettered “warrior culture” in the Australian army. Some soldiers see themselves as a special existence beyond the law.” The non-commissioned officers’ groups that spread this culture, as well as domestic commanders who failed to contain the “warrior culture”, are “substantial indirect responsibility” for these crimes.
In his 2016 report, Klopwarts pointed out that the reasons for the scandal included the lack of effective leadership mechanisms and sufficient reporting channels within the special forces, which could have allowed soldiers to report war crimes without fearing reprisals. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Krumpwarts report recorded the testimony of several special forces insiders that war crimes were normalized among some soldiers, while others who opposed such bad behavior were marginalized.
“I am deeply concerned that some soldiers did not come forward to report the atrocities when they saw or knew about it, or did not feel safe to do so,” said Australian Army Lieutenant General Burr.
The report has a great shock and impact on the Australian military. The 2nd Squadron of the Special Air Service was disbanded because of “in connection with suspected serious criminal activities”. The report also recommends that the Australian Federal Police conduct a criminal investigation into 19 of the 25 people involved. Campbell said that the military involved would be reviewed case-by-case.
A recent front-page article published by The Australian pointed out that this is “a shameful page in Australian military history”. According to the Australian Financial Review, Australian Defense Minister Reynolds said that the facts shown in the report made her feel unwell and saw “the failure of leaders at multiple levels of the Australian military”.
“It is still doubtful whether the accountability can be implemented”
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement recently that the acts described in the report are in flagrant violation of Australia’s solemn legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions and relevant laws. Any military personnel who committed war crimes in Afghanistan and anyone who tries to cover up these crimes must be brought to justice and the families of the victims must receive compensation.
Australian Prime Minister Morrison said that he was deeply troubled and disturbed by the behavior of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and the cases involved would be dealt with in accordance with Australian law and judicial system. He has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the matter. However, some Australian legal experts said, “The relevant criminal prosecution process will be quite complicated, and whether the accountability can be implemented is still doubtful.”
The Australian Financial Review published an article saying that unless the government decides to amend the evidence law, it will be difficult for prosecutors to obtain any basis for conviction from the investigation report, because the law stipulates that third-party evidence cannot be used to file a case. David Letts, director of the Australian National University’s Center for Military and Security Law Studies, pointed out that the purpose of the Bretton investigation is to investigate ongoing rumors and allegations about the conduct of special forces soldiers, rather than to collect evidence that can be used for criminal trials. Therefore, before a possible criminal prosecution, the police investigation may take several years.
Melanie O’Brien, an international law scholar at the University of Western Australia, said in an interview with the Australian Associated Press that collecting evidence will be the biggest challenge, and it will be particularly difficult to collect evidence of crimes committed outside Australia in conflict areas. In addition, because ordinary people do not know the details of military activities, it may be difficult to convict through a jury and only be tried by a judge alone, which will also increase the complexity of the case.
According to Australian media reports, in addition to the Australian army, both the United States and British forces in the coalition forces in Afghanistan are also facing charges of illegal killings, but the relevant cases are usually closed. According to the Australian Financial Review, an appeal involving war crimes involving British marines ended in acquittal of the defendant, although he himself admitted to a violation of the Geneva Convention.