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‘Unforgivable’: Aus lashed over report

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called the alleged war crimes outlined in Australia’s Brereton Report “unforgivable” and called for justice to be served to the victims. In a statement following the shocking investigation into actions by Australia’s elite special forces, Afghanistan’s government said it felt “disgust” at the contents and viewed it as an…

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called the alleged war crimes outlined in Australia’s Brereton Report “unforgivable” and called for justice to be served to the victims.

In a statement following the shocking investigation into actions by Australia’s elite special forces, Afghanistan’s government said it felt “disgust” at the contents and viewed it as an “important step towards justice.”

The country acknowledged Prime Minister Scott Morrison had contacted the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, to apologise and assure them that Inquiry recommendations would be carried out.

President Ashraf Ghani’s office said Mr Morrison had “expressed his deepest sorrow over the misconduct”.

Mr Morrison has already announced a special investigator to prosecute the alleged war crimes, a move that has been seen as staving off any prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Amnesty International Australia said “the full impact upon the families and communities of these 39 murders must be fully explored and appropriate support provided to those families and communities.”

Afghanistan’s independent Human Rights Commission said the report “clearly demonstrates that Australian forces engaged in murder and brutalisation of Afghans, including children, through deliberate inhumane acts of violence behind which was a consensus that Afghan life, whether of men, women or children, had no inherent worth or dignity.”

“Only through a series of independent inquiries will we uncover the true extent of this disregard for Afghan life, which normalised murder, and resulted in war crimes.

“Only through further investigation, documentation, and engagement with victims, will victims’ right to truth and justice be met.”

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Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson told Al Jazeera Afghans should not have to wait years for justice, saying there should be “swift and independent prosecutions” for the “deliberate and cold-blooded killings”.

Pearson said she agreed with pursuing justice at home rather than through the ICC.

“The ICC is a court of last resort. Australia does have the rule of law and so these cases should come to Australian courts. People should be investigated and held to account,” she said.

HORRIFIC ALLEGATIONS IN ‘WARRIOR CULTURE’

The long-awaited report handed down on Thursday said there was “credible evidence” of Australia’s elite special forces unlawfully killing 39 Afghans and “blooding” younger recruits by demanding they murder civilians and plant evidence on their bodies.

It contained multiple allegations of cruel treatment of prisoners of war due to a “warrior culture” in allegations Chief of the Defence Force General, Angus Campbell, called “deeply disturbing”.

“These findings allege the most serious breaches of military conduct and professional values.

“The killing, the unlawful killing, of civilians and prisoners is never acceptable.

“It is my duty and that of my fellow chiefs to set things right,” he said.

It recommended the Defence Chief refer 36 matters to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation including 23 incidents covering 19 people.

The findings follow a four-year inquiry looking at the behaviour of special forces in Afghanistan covering more than 420 witnesses and 20,000 documents.

More than 26,000 Australian personnel have been sent to Afghanistan since the September 11 2001 terror attacks. Australian combat troops officially left the country in 2013, however brutal accounts of behaviour inside the country have continued to emerge.

FEARS AUSRALIANS COULD BECOME TARGETS

The disclosures have led to fears among Defence Force leaders that Australians overseas could become targets.

General Campbell said the report’s contents “potentially create fuel”.

“It is a truth, or at least an allegation of a truth, that we must face up to and, hence, we need to be alert and just be aware of our circumstances, depending on where people are in the world.

He also admitted the report had done significant damage to the perception of the Australian military.

“The report details credible information regarding deeply disturbing allegations of unlawful killings by some. I respectfully ask Australians to remember and have faith in the many. I assure you, I do,” he said.

Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr also said the “alleged grave misconduct has severely damaged our professional standing.”

Srinjoy Bose, an international relations lecturer at the University of New South Wales, told AFP that the revelations will “definitely” be used by the Taliban to restate calls “for foreign forces to withdraw from Afghanistan.”

“I would imagine that the Australian presence in Afghanistan, for the coming weeks and months, will be afforded greater protection.”

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