Australian elite forces allegedly killed 39 Afghans civilians and prisoners unlawfully in an environment where blood lust and competition killings were reportedly a norm, according to a long-awaited official report.
Speaking on Thursday, November 19th, Chief of the Australian Defence Force Gen. Angus Campbell after being delivered the findings conducted by Major General Paul Brereton, said there had been a warrior culture among some members of Australia’s special forces serving in Afghanistan. CNN reports.
The investigation run by Major General Paul Brereton, conducted interviews with more than 400 witnesses. He found evidence that a small group within the Australian elite Special Air Services and commandos regiments killed and brutalised Afghan civilians, in some cases allegedly slitting throats, gloating about their actions, keeping kill counts, and photographing bodies with planted phones and weapons to justify their actions.
The findings of Brereton’s report, released on Thursday, are confronting and damning.
Brereton describes the special forces’ actions as “disgraceful and a profound betrayal” of the Australian Defence Force.
The report found:
- Special forces were responsible for dozens of unlawful killings, the vast majority of which involved prisoners, and were deliberately covered up.
- Thirty-nine Afghans were unlawfully killed in 23 incidents, either by special forces or at the instruction of special forces.
- None of the 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.
- All the victims were either non-combatants or were no longer combatants.
- A total of 25 perpetrators have been identified either as principals or accessories. Some are still serving in the ADF.
In all cases, the report finds it “was or should have been plain that the person killed was a non-combatant”. The vast majority of victims had been captured and were under control, giving them the protection under international law.
Some of the incidents described in the report are deeply troubling. Evidence suggests junior soldiers were instructed by their superiors to execute prisoners in cold blood as part of a blooding process to give them their first kill.
The chief of the ADF, General Angus Campbell, promised to act on the Brereton report’s shameful and appalling findings about the conduct of Australian special forces
. “To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers,” Campbell said during a press conferenc
e in Canberra on Thursday.
“And to the people of Australia, I am sincerely sorry for any wrongdoing by members of the Australian Defence Force,” he said, adding that the majority of special forces “did not choose to take this unlawful path”. The Guardian reports.