Australia will prosecute its soldiers for alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, the country’s prime minister announced on Thursday.
“There were a significant number of incidents and issues to look into, and the investigation would be inherently complex,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quoted as saying by ABC News.
“The Office of the Special Investigator will address the criminal matters made in the Inspector General’s report and investigate those allegations, gather evidence and, whether appropriate, refer briefs to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration.”
The alleged role of Australian soldiers in war crimes against Afghans came to the fore after the ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] ran a series – called the Afghan Files – on the issue back in 2017.
The Afghan Files accused Australian troops of civilian killings in Afghanistan, and the shocking disclosures led to police raids on the ABC headquarters in Sydney last year.
The stories by ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces and were based on hundreds of pages of leaked secret defense documents.
Australia’s role in Afghanistan dates back to 2001 and it continues to provide military support for “mentoring, operational and reconstruction activities” in the war-torn country.
A final report from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defense Force, examining the conduct of Australian forces between 2005 and 2016, was recently handed over to the government.
Besides handing over the case to the public prosecutor, the Australian government will set up an “oversight panel” to make “sure other recommendations from the report are implemented.”
“Given the likely allegations of serious and possibly criminal misconduct, the matters raised in the inquiry must be assessed, investigated and, where allegations are substantiated, prosecuted in court,” Morrison said.
Defense Minister Linda Reynolds did not rule out stripping accused soldiers of their medals if the allegations were found true. “There are many options and recommendations for action,” she said.
Angus Campbell, Australia’s defense chief, is yet to comment on the matter, saying last week that he will “speak about the key findings … [once he has] read and reflected on the report.”
Source: Anadolu Agency