A long-awaited report on alleged war crimes committed by Australian soldiers abroad is expected to be released to the public on Thursday, with Afghanistan demanding an apology. Here’s why it matters.
The Afghan government says Australian authorities should apologize to families of victims of alleged war crimes committed by Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan.
The revised version of the inspector general’s report of the Australian Defense Force’s Afghanistan investigation report will be released on Thursday after four years of investigation..
It is expected to reveal the extent of alleged misconduct by a small group of Special Forces soldiers in remote Afghan villages between 2005 and 2016..
The investigation was launched in 2016 to investigate rumors circulating about alleged misconduct by members of the Elite Special Operations Task Force.. It is led by Major General Paul Breriton, judge of the New South Wales Supreme Court.
Over the past four years, the Brereton investigation has held private hearings, looking into 55 incidents or cases surrounding alleged unlawful killings and cruel treatment of Afghan civilians or « noncombatants » over a period of 11 years. More than 330 witnesses were interviewed.
Not a criminal investigation but an administrative one. The Inspector General of the Defense Force previously confirmed that this operation « aims not only to ascertain whether there is misconduct but also to acquit those who may be affected by rumors and unfounded allegations. ».
The investigation is not about investigating decisions made by soldiers in the « heat of battle » but about how people who were clearly not combatants or were no longer combatants were treated.
The report is expected to formally separate accounts of alleged misconduct. Outside of the investigation, however, there were extensive media reports on various allegations of war crimes being committed in Afghanistan. But it is not clear – and there is no indication – that any of these incidents will be confirmed in the report.
Rahmatullah Ander, a spokesperson for the Afghan National Security Council, said the Afghan government helped with the investigation.
He said Australia should be commended for starting the investigation, adding that the courage of soldiers who have spoken out should be applauded.
“Whoever confesses to having committed a criminal act [shows] moral courage,” Mr. Andar told SBS Pashto, calling for an apology.
“If the investigation finds that because of such crimes, certain [Afghani] families are affected, then saying sorry to them is [an act of] other moral courage, and it is also a good thing to do under human rights [laws]. They have to apologize.
The families of the alleged victims hope to finally confirm what happened to their loved ones.
Jawad Zwalistani, managing director of the Afghan Human Rights and Democracy Organization, which represents victims of war crimes, says some families do not even know that the flawed report has been issued.
His organization has spoken of a handful of relatives of the alleged victims, who said they hope to finally discover the truth.
At 7:07 pm Friday night, while the US elections are still underway, we received an email from the head of the ADF saying they had received a report of alleged war crimes committed by Australian forces in Afghanistan 👇 https: // / t. Share / DWBAp8UOcH pic. Twitter. com / Qh3J2oScB4
“In most cases, they didn’t know what happened to their loved ones,” he told SBS.
“On some reports, the bodies were thrown into the river, [they] . . . Find the body of their relatives somewhere in their villages and they did not know what happened to them.
He also says that the actions of the coalition forces, including the Australians, may have led to the rise of the Taliban in remote villages in Uruzgan.
“I think it is because of this kind of treatment that the civilian population has received that the Taliban and other insurgent groups have found a foothold in those villages,” Mr. Zwalistani said..
A Taliban spokesman echoed this statement, saying it had gained a foothold due to the actions of the coalition forces, including Australia..
“The Afghan people cannot see any foreign forces in their country, especially those who come with guns and bombs.. « Afghans in all regions are against it, » Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naeem told SBS Pashto..
Mr. Naim said that an apology – and even possible prosecutions – would not suffice for victims.
“A single trial for criminals is not enough. This may calm the feelings of the victim’s families. People’s homes have been destroyed, and their family members killed. Only prosecuting some may not help them..
We demand that countries that are sincere in dealing with such matters should visit families in those areas and ask people what they want.
We do not expect to see the names of any soldiers, alleged victims, or witnesses in the report.
There will be a summary and analysis of the evidence behind each incident and a conclusion on whether or not there was a violation of the law of armed conflict.
If there is evidence of misconduct, a recommendation will be made to the Chief of Defense Force on what should be done to address it.
There will also be a review of the structural, operational, leadership and cultural environment that may have allowed such actions to occur and advice on how to address them..
A private investigator will investigate any criminal matters raised in the report. If so, it will collect the evidence and forward the abstracts to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration.
The Office of the Special Investigator will be located within the Department of Home Affairs and staffed by Australian Federal Police investigators, legal counsel and support staff..
The Independent Human Rights Commission in Afghanistan participated in the investigation and exchange of information on its investigations. Committee chair Sheherazade Akbar said that some Australian media reports detailing the alleged crimes are being translated in Dari and Pashto.. .
She said: « Of course there will be anger and sadness because of what happened and because of these allegations. »
She said: « The Australians were there to improve the lives of Afghans. It wasn’t all the Australian forces did wrong, but there were really horrific incidents that had to be addressed. ».
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War Crime, Australia, Afghanistan, Paul Breriton
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