A four-year investigation released last week found evidence Australian soldiers may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Australia has notified 13 special forces soldiers that they face dismissal in connection with reports of alleged extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan, the country’s army chief said on Friday.
Lieutenant General Rick Burr, head of the Australian army, said soldiers had been given an “administrative action notification”, which would terminate their service in two weeks unless they successfully appealed.
A multi-year inquiry last week reported that Australia’s elite special forces “unlawfully killed” 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan, including with brief killings as part of the initiation ritual.
He recommended that 19 people be referred to the Australian Federal Police, that compensation be paid to the families of victims, and that the military undertakes many reforms.
Burr did not identify any of the 13 soldiers, but said they were not among the 19 current and former soldiers facing possible criminal charges. He said the legal process must be respected as the military tries to bring those responsible for wrongdoing to justice.
“We are all committed to learning from the investigation and emerging from this a stronger, more capable and effective army,” he said.
“Each individual issue and circumstance will be considered on a case by case basis.”
Australia’s most senior military official apologized to Afghanistan last week following the release of the report.
Reports on the behavior of Australian elite forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 say senior commandos may have forced junior soldiers to kill defenseless prisoners to “root” them for combat.
In a letter accompanying the investigation report, James Gaynor, inspector general of the Australian Defense Forces, described the nature and extent of the alleged offense as “highly confrontational”, noting additional allegations that members of the Australian military had treated people under their control with cruelty.
“Neither of these alleged crimes were committed during the heat of battle,” he wrote. “The alleged victims were non-combatants or no longer combatants.”
The team of investigators interviewed 423 witnesses – some on multiple occasions – and reviewed more than 20,000 documents and 25,000 images to compile a report over 500 pages.
A special investigator has been appointed to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution related to the investigation.
The Australian military was deployed to Afghanistan with troops from the United States and other allies after the 11 September 2001 attacks.
In the following years, a series of often gruesome reports emerged of the behavior of his special forces units – from a prisoner being shot dead to save space in a helicopter to the murder of a six-year-old child in a house. attack.
Combat forces left Afghanistan in 2013, but the Australian military continues to work in training and support roles.
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