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Australian SAS members killed Afghan civilians, report

A long-held report has revealed that Australian special forces unlawfully killed 39 people during Afghan war. The Australian Defense Force (ADF) has made public the findings following a four-year inquiry into abuse of power by its Armed forces personnel. The report looked into 57 incidents of misconduct and recorded over 300 witnesses. It had revealed a “shameful record” of a “warrior culture” by some soldiers, ADF chief General Angus Campbell said.

The report suggests that 19 current or former soldiers should be investigated by police for their roles in killings of “prisoners, farmers or civilians” from 2009 to 2013. Afghanistan said it has been assured by Australia that it would serve justice to the perpetrators involved in human rights abuses on their land in the light of latest findings in the report.

What did the report Say?

The report finds that 25 serving or former soldiers were directly involved in carrying out war crimes or abetted others in the unlawful actions. Most allegations surround soldiers within the Special Air Service (SAS) elite unit. Gen. Campbell confirmed that none of the alleged killings could be listed 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,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“And every person spoken to by the inquiry thoroughly understood the law of armed conflict and the rules of engagement under which they operated.”

General Campbell said the most serious charges involved some SAS soldiers who allegedly “took the law into their own hands”.

“The report notes that the distorted culture was embraced and amplified by some experienced, charismatic and influential non-commissioned officers and their proteges, who sought to fuse military excellence with ego, elitism and entitlement,” he said.

The inquiry initiated and completed by Australian Defense Force was conducted behind closed doors meaning only a few details have been reported until now.

The Reaction so far

Australian forces
Australian forces involved in unlawful killings of Afghan civilians

Last week, Mr. Morrison cautioned the report about special forces was “difficult and hard news for Australians”.

“It is the environment [within the ADF], it is the context, it is the rules, it is the culture and the command that sat around those things,” he said.

“And if we want to deal with the truth of this, we have to deal with the truth of that.”

The Office of Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said Morrison in a call had express his “deepest sorrow” over the horrific findings of the report. Afghanistan has yet to formally respond to the report. Last week, Mr. Morrison said a special investigator would be appointed to prosecute the concerned SAS members that carried out crimes. An independent panel would also be formed to oversee “accountability and transparency that sit outside of the ADF chain of command”, the government said. Australia, presently, as part of ongoing peacekeeping efforts has its 400 troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Other countries facing allegations

Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC) started a probe into the alleged war crimes by the US and others in Afghan War. The actions of the Taliban, Afghan government and US troops since May 2003 are expected to come under investigation of the international tribunal. A 2016 report published by International Criminal Court suggested there was a reasonable basis to believe the US troops had committed torture at secret detention sites maintained by CIA. The report also claimed that it was reasonable to believe the Afghan government had tortured prisoners and the Taliban had carried out war crimes involving large number of civilians.  The United Kingdom is also investigating whether allegations of unlawful killing by UK Special Forces were duly probed.