The Chief of Army has taken administrative action against 13 special forces soldiers accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell released findings from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force’s (IGADF) Afghanistan Inquiry report, which relate to alleged misconduct by Australian Special Forces on operations in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.
The inquiry found there is “credible information” of 25 incidents in which one or more non-combatants or persons hors-de-combat were “unlawfully killed” or mistreated by or at the direction of members of the Special Operations Task Group.
These incidents have been reported to have involved:
- a total of 39 individuals killed, and a further two cruelly treated; and
- a total of 25 current or former Australian Defence Force personnel who were perpetrators, either as principals or accessories, some of them on a single occasion and a few on multiple occasions.
Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton, who led the inquiry, found that none of the incidents involved disputable decisions made under pressure or in the heat of battle.
The ADF is now taking action against personnel identified in the report, who were suspected to have perpetrated or been a party to alleged war crimes.
In an address to the media on Friday (27 November), Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, revealed that administrative action notices have been sent to 13 special forces soldiers, but stressed that, at this stage, no individuals have been terminated from the ADF.
Such individuals will now be given the opportunity to plead their case by providing a written response within 14 days of receipt of the notice.
An administrator will then consider their written response before determining whether to dismiss the individual, with each matter considered on a case-by-case basis.
LTGEN Burr urged the public to respect the privacy of the individuals, stressing that procedural fairness must be applied to ensure the delivery of a just outcome.
“It is critical that for any judicial, disciplinary, or administrative action, due procedural process must occur,” he said.
“I want to stress the importance of acknowledging and respecting the privacy of individuals and enabling due process to take its course.
“Legal, welfare, and command support is provided to anyone who is subject to administrative action.”
The Chief of Army added, “This whole process will take time, and we will do this work methodically, deliberately, and in accordance with established process.”
LTGEN Burr also reiterated his confidence in the Australian Army.
“We are all committed to learning from the inquiry and emerging from this a stronger, more capable and effective Army,” he concluded.
The Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell is also currently considering whether to refer matters to the Office of the Special Investigator.
ADF members and their families can contact the Defence All-hours Support Line, a confidential telephone service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 1800 628 036. Defence families can also contact the Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.
Safe Zone Support (1800 142 072) is also available as a free and anonymous counselling line for current and former ADF personnel and their families. The service is available 24/7 and provides access to specialised counsellors with an understanding of military culture and experience.
Defence personnel, veterans and their families can also access free and confidential counselling 24/7 through Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling Service (1800 011 046) or online at www.openarms.gov.au.