Canberra : Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed that allegations of war crimes committed by his country’s soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 will be taken “very seriously”. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) on Thursday released the findings of a landmark four-year inquiry that found “credible evidence” of the special forces soldiers’ murdering 39 prisoners, farmers and civilians during the war in Afghanistan. It recommended that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) open criminal investigations into 19 individuals for their roles in the incidents. Morrison, who previously warned that the report contained “difficult and hard news” for Australians, said the allegations would be pursued until “justice is indeed served”.
“Where things don’t measure up to those standards as a country and indeed as a Defence Force, we look seriously at those issues, take them seriously and deal with them seriously to uphold those standards,” he said. “And that this report will be received and provided to the office of a special investigator to pursue any matters that must be pursued and can be pursued under our rule of law and that justice is indeed served.
“And these are the assurances that I have provided to the Afghan government, that this is the process that we will follow,” he added. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was Australia’s leader for about three of the years covered by the inquiry, said he was “disgusted” by the findings. “It beggars belief that following the atrocities witnessed during the Iraq war at Abu Ghraib that such crimes could be repeated, and worse, by Australian forces in Afghanistan,” Rudd, who served as the prime minister between 2007 and 2010 and again in 2013, said in the statement.
“Those who are responsible for these crimes, and any efforts to conceal them, must be brought to justice. “Behind every unlawful killing is a family grieving for someone they love. The families of those victims must be compensated for their unjust loss, the former leader added. The report recommends that compensation be paid to the families of the Afghan victims before any criminal prosecutions and that the honors awarded to those implicated in the report be revoked.
The inquiry, which was conducted by New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton, heard testimonies from more than 400 witnesses. One witness, former special forces medic Dusty Miller, said his decision to speak out was vindicated by the report. “It’s all true. It happened. It’s factual. It’s what happened over there, it’s something that I witnessed on a number of occasions,” he said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Friday. “It’s been approximately eight years of knowing what certain individuals got up to over there and to hear the Chief of Defence Force publicly confirm those allegations. It’s complete vindication.”