The release of today’s report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) into allegations of war crimes committed by Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan is a difficult moment for the nation.
Findings in the report that credible information exists in relation to some members of Australia’s Special Forces having engaged in unlawful killings and cruel treatment while deployed in Afghanistan are appalling.
This report makes difficult reading. It states that credible evidence exists that members of our most elite armed forces behaved unlawfully, unconscionably and committed war crimes as defined by the Australian criminal justice system.
These allegations in respect of a few do not detract from the sacrifice of the many who have served our country, and in particular the thousands of current and former soldiers who served in Afghanistan.
It is important the Government accepts all recommendations made by Major General Paul Brereton.
Major General Brereton has demonstrated the utmost integrity in handling this difficult task and we thank him for his work.
We also acknowledge the courageous leadership within the Australian Defence Force in ordering this investigation and now committing to the next steps. As Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Campbell said today:
“It is my duty to set things right.”
Today will be distressing for many who have shown extraordinary bravery in speaking up about what they saw and knew was inappropriate conduct. Giving voice to their concerns would not have been easy. The report highlights the protective culture insulating special forces soldiers was a key factor in creating an environment that allowed unlawful behaviour to fester.
Today also demonstrates that we should have faith in the Australian justice system. Where allegations of bad conduct are made, they are properly investigated, and the findings acted on.
The confronting honesty of the IGADF report highlights that Australia is a country that respects the Geneva Conventions, human rights, and the rule of law, and that no one is exempt from those laws.
We support the establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator to oversee the investigations following this report. It is now appropriate that it is allowed to do its work free of any prejudice or political interference.