Australia

Chief of Army Rick Burr ‘sickened’ by alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers

Bombshell allegations of Australian troops allegedly committing war crimes in Afghanistan sent shockwaves around the nation this week.But no one was more shocked than Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, who maintains he had “heard nothing of these allegations” despite being a senior officer in the Australian Army.In an interview with 60 Minutes tonight,…

Bombshell allegations of Australian troops allegedly committing war crimes in Afghanistan sent shockwaves around the nation this week.

But no one was more shocked than Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr, who maintains he had “heard nothing of these allegations” despite being a senior officer in the Australian Army.

In an interview with 60 Minutes tonight, Lt-Gen Burr revealed he dismissed two soldiers from the Special Air Services Regiment (SASR) on the spot after the damning findings of the four year inquiry were laid bare on Thursday.

“It was a very sombre occasion as I delivered the news (of the findings) to them (soldiers) personally and made the very decisive action of removing two SAS squadron from the order of battle, both as a practical, but also very real statement of how serious this is as we hold ourselves to account,” Lt-Gen Burr said.

RELATED: Shocking claims about young recruits

On Thursday the conduct of Australian Special Forces Soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016 was released, exposing allegations of soldiers who had unlawfully killed farmers and civilian prisoners for the purpose of “blooding”, whereby a soldier takes a life for the first time as a rite of passage.

None of the alleged killings took place in the heat of battle, and they all occurred in circumstances which, if accepted by a jury, would constitute the war crime of murder, the report found.

The inquiry found that 25 elite soldiers, mainly from SASR, were allegedly involved in unlawfully killing 39 Afghani men and adolescent males.

Nineteen current and former soldiers have been referred to the Australian Federal Police for investigation over 36 matters which involve 23 alleged murders and two cases where non-combatants were allegedly treated cruelly.

RELATED: Doctor tells inside story of Afghanistan war crimes report

“I heard nothing of these allegations,” Lt-Gen Burr told the Channel 9 program. ”If I had, I absolutely would have reported them.

“This is shocking. As we look back over our history, many commanders at many levels are asking, how did this happen?”

So how did one of the most senior officials among army ranks not hear about what was going on?

“The inquiry report makes it very clear that individuals went to (great effort) to conceal these alleged unlawful acts,” Lt-Gen Burr said.

“Leaders at every level are asking themselves these very questions … To now discover that they were lied to … That the truth was withheld from their own commanders, it‘s truly devastating.

“It is morally destructive that this behaviour went on in our own organisation.”

Lt-Gen Burr added he was “sickened” when he was briefed about the findings.

“Oh, I was sick. I was sickened. I was shocked by the extent of the alleged unlawful acts that were described in the report,” he said.

“That is absolutely not what I expect of anyone in our army, anywhere in our army at any time, and why I‘m so determined to lead our army through this into a better place.

“We can formally continue the journey that we’ve already been on since 2015, to strengthen our army, to strengthen the culture, the leadership and the accountability of our organisation to win back that trust.”

RELATED: Scott Morrison’s phone call before war crimes report

Chairman of Seven West Media Ltd and Australian War Memorial chair Kerry Stokes said in a statement on Friday that he was offering legal support to former SAS soldiers accused of war crimes.

However Lt-Gen Burr didn‘t wish to comment on the matter.

“That is a matter for others. I am focused on leading our army through this very difficult period to ensure that we come out a better, more capable army,” he said.

“The whole army is focused on this issue … There is a lot that we need to digest.

“We’ll obviously use this as a case study, as we continue to focus on strengthening the fundamentals of our army in particular, again, around culture and leadership and ethical behaviour and reinforce our focus on good soldiering, which is all about teams.

“All about individuals of strong character operating within the law, operating with our values and professional standards at the forefront of everything that we do, whatever we do wherever we are.”

About the author

cvxgBWcuFA

Leave a Comment