An inquiry by Australian Defence Force found that 25 of its special forces soldiers had participated in unlawful killings directly or as ‘accessories’, across 23 separate incidents
CANBERRA — In a much-awaited report released on Thursday, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) acknowledged there was “credible evidence” that the country’s elite soldiers unlawfully killed 39 Afghan civilians.
The ADF report, based on findings from a four-year inquiry into misconduct by Australian forces, said that 19 current or former service members will be probed by the police over the killings of “prisoners, farmers or civilians” between 2009 and 2013, the BBC reported.
The report said 25 special forces soldiers had participated in unlawful killings directly or as “accessories”, across 23 separate incidents.
The inquiry, conducted by Major Gen Justice Paul Brereton, conducted interviews with more than 400 witnesses.
It also found evidence that junior soldiers were told to get their first kill by shooting prisoners, in a practice known as “blooding”; weapons and other items were planted near Afghan bodies to cover up crimes; and an additional two incidents could constitute a war crime of “cruel treatment”.
Addressing the media on Thursday, ADF chief General Angus Campbell said none of the incidents could be “described as being in the heat of battle”.
“None were alleged to have occurred in circumstances in which the intent of the perpetrator was unclear, confused or mistaken,” the BBC quoted General Campbell as saying.
Afghanistan said it had been assured by Australia that it was committed to “ensuring justice”.
The office of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called on the phone to express his “deepest sorrow” over the findings.
Last week, Morrison warned the report contained “difficult and hard news for Australians” about its special forces. — IANS