Special investigator to prosecute alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Scott Morrison foreshadowed “difficult and hard news" ahead of the release of a report into the allegations next week.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, November 12, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, November 12, 2020. Source: AAP

A special investigator will be appointed to probe allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan and prosecute any criminal misconduct, following a four-year inquiry into .

The inspector-general of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell last week. 

Announcing the new investigation on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would "go for an indeterminate amount of time" and address the criminal matters raised in the inspector-general's report.

Advertisement
The last of Australia's troops last month flew out of Afghanistan.
The last of Australia's troops last month flew out of Afghanistan. Source: SBS / , Australian Department of Defence


"The Office of the Special Investigator will ... investigate those allegations, gather evidence and, where appropriate, refer briefs to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration," he told reporters in Canberra.

"There is a significant number of incidents or issues to be investigated further and that investigation will be inherently complex."



The special investigator will be an "eminent person" with experience with international law, Mr Morrison said. 

A redacted version of the inquiry's report will be released next week, with Mr Morrison flagging it would include some "brutal truths" and "difficult" news.

"This will be difficult and hard news for Australians, I can assure you," he said. 

"It is our Australian way to deal with these issues with a deep respect for justice and the rule of law, but also one that seeks to illuminate the truth."

The Office of the Special Investigator will be housed within the Department of Home Affairs and staffed with investigators from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), legal counsel, and support personnel. It is expected to be fully established by next year, "if not sooner", Mr Morrison said.

It will be established to ensure the AFP can focus on its primary responsibilities of responding to organised crime, terrorism, and foreign interference.



The AFP has previously been undertaking an investigation into the war crime allegations,

A separate oversight panel - called the Afghanistan Inquiry Implementation Oversight Panel - will also be established to oversee the investigation and drive cultural change within the ADF.

The panel, which will provide quarterly reports directly to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, will be led by former Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Vivienne Thom and include University of Tasmania vice-chancellor Rufus Black. 

"There is some disturbing content here, but we cannot then take that and apply it to everyone who has pulled on a uniform and if we did this, that would be grossly unjust," Mr Morrison said.

"We all share a deep respect for our defence forces, but we also share a deep respect for justice."



Major General Paul Brereton, who is also an NSW Supreme Court judge, began probing allegations of unlawful killings and other possible breaches of the law of armed conflict in 2016.

Welfare and other support services are available to those affected by the Afghanistan Inquiry, Major General Brereton said on Friday. 


SHARE
3 min read
Published 12 November 2020 at 1:10pm
By Maani Truu
Source: SBS