Australian military probes ‘rumors’ of potential war crimes in Afghanistan

Australian military probes ‘rumors’ of potential war crimes in Afghanistan
The Australian military has confirmed that it is conducting a private inquiry into “rumors” of potential war crimes in Afghanistan committed by Australian forces for at least a decade, and made a public call for anyone who has information to come forward.

The Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) released a statement on Friday, saying that it is conducting an inquiry “into rumors of possible breaches” of military laws by Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops in Afghanistan in the period between 2005 and 2016.  

The statement confirms a large-scale report by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from earlier this year, claiming that IGADF was looking into potential unlawful killings of civilians by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

In its statement, IGADF has made a public appeal for information related to the matter.

“The Inquiry would like anyone who has information regarding possible breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict by Australian forces in Afghanistan, or rumors of them, to contact the Inquiry,” the military watchdog said. 

“The Inquiry is being conducted in private and the identity of anyone providing information can be protected and kept confidential, and arrangements can be made for information to be received face-to-face,” New South Wales Supreme Court Judge and Army Reserve Major General Paul Brereton, who is leading the Inquiry, said

“While the Inquiry has already spoken to many sources, we would like to hear from anyone else who has any relevant information,” Major General Brereton said.

“Whether you saw something yourself, or heard others talking about it, we would like you to contact us.”

The probe started in May 2016 and is independent of the military chain of command, the statement from IGADF reads. 

Since this summer, ABC has been publishing leaked government documents describing the alleged war crimes by Australian forces. Details of the killings are included in leaked Australian Defence Force documents totaling hundreds of pages, many of which were marked ‘AUSTEO’ (Australian Eyes Only). The documents were leaked exclusively to ABC and have been referred to as “The Afghan Files.”

In July, the news outlet reported that Australian authorities were reportedly investigating a member of the country’s elite special forces for the possible unlawful killing of an Afghan businessman. The soldier allegedly shot the man before planting a gun on his body to make it look like self-defense.

Earlier in July, ABC said that the IGADF is also investigating the death of a man, thought to be a Taliban member, and his six-year-old child during a raid. The child’s family received compensation of US$1,500 following the incident.

READ MORE: Australian soldier probed over claims he killed unarmed Afghan businessman & planted gun – leak 

The leaks also indicated the severing of an alleged Taliban insurgent’s hands by a SAS corporal, which ABC reported in 2013.