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No question SAS committed war crimes in Afghanistan, facilitated by failure of command

Australian Greens Peace and Disarmament spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said there was no question now that Australian special forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan that are the result of a toxic warrior culture, facilitated by failures within the chain of command.

“The crimes outlined in the Brereton report - even in the limited detail we’ve been given so far - are horrendous and shameful,” Steele-John said.

“Innocent people, including children, are dead, families have been torn apart and villages have been left in ruin. Compensation must be given to the families and to the communities affected by these disgusting crimes.

“For their role in these crimes, the perpetrators and their direct chain of command - the officers who sanctioned, and often ordered these unlawful killings - must be held to account.

“So too must the higher levels of command within the armed forces who served during the Afghanistan War who either failed to act when they should have, or turned a blind eye and allowed the sanitisation of reporting.

Senator Steele-John said there were significant questions that still remained unanswered after ADF Chief General Angus Campbell’s press conference.

“Both the Office of the Special Investigator and the Oversight Committee must be independent, without any personal or professional ties to the Australian Defence Force. So far, these assurances have not been given.

“General Campbell stated that the commanders who either didn’t know what was happening on the ground, or turned a blind eye to sanitised reporting, would be disciplined internally and not referred to the Special Investigator. When negligence results in an unlawful killing, there are pathways for prosecuting that as a criminal matter and these must be explored.

“Any deliberations between General Campbell, as Chief of the Defence Force, and Lt. General Burr, as the Chief of Army, about consequences for commanders who failed to act must be transparent so that the Australian public can be assured that this toxic warrior culture is being properly addressed.

“And finally, the public have a right to seriously question the involvement of both General Campbell and Lt. General Burr’s in the implementation of the report’s recommendations and in future disciplinary actions related to this investigation, given both played leadership roles in the Afghanistan War.

“General Campbell was the Commander of Joint Task Force 633 responsible for all Australian forces deployed in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, between January 2011 and January 2012. Lt. General Burr was a Commander of SASR on two separate deployments during the Afghanistan War.”

I and my team will be examining this report and its ramifications in detail, and consulting with experts and stakeholders to provide a more detailed response over the coming days.

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