Otago Daily Times

De­mand for jus­tice over crimes

- Military · Crime · Terrorism · Society · Discrimination · Justice · Human Rights · Warfare and Conflicts · Politics · Law · Canberra · Afghanistan · Taliban · Government of Australia · Australia · Australian Special Air Service Regiment · Australian Defence Force

CAN­BERRA: Afghan hu­man rights groups are de­mand­ing jus­tice for vic­tims of hor­ren­dous war crimes com­mit­ted by Aus­tralian sol­diers.

Aus­tralian spe­cial forces stand ac­cused of mur­der­ing 39 peo­ple in Afghanista­n and tor­tur­ing two pris­on­ers.

A chill­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found ju­nior pa­trol mem­bers were or­dered to ex­e­cute Afghan de­tainees, while weapons and ev­i­dence were planted on bod­ies to cover up un­law­ful deaths.

In one of the most grue­some in­ci­dents un­cov­ered, Aus­tralian sol­diers al­legedly cut the throats of two 14­year­old boys and dumped their bod­ies in a river be­cause they be­lieved they were Tal­iban sym­pa­this­ers.

In an­other, spe­cial forces al­legedly mas­sa­cred a vil­lage and then tor­tured sur­vivors for days be­fore killing them.

One Spe­cial Air Ser­vice squadron is be­ing dis­banded fol­low­ing the damn­ing find­ings, while 19 serv­ing or for­mer sol­diers will face pos­si­ble prose­cu­tion and the strip­ping of their medals. Com­pen­sa­tion will be paid to Afghan fam­i­lies who lost loved ones.

Hadi Mar­i­fat of the Afghanista­n Hu­man Rights and Democracy Or­gan­i­sa­tion said the re­lease of the re­port and start of crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions marked the start of a process of clo­sure.

Afghan vic­tims must be con­sulted, Mar­i­fat said.

‘‘Noth­ing other than bringing to jus­tice those re­spon­si­ble for un­law­ful killings and un­law­ful treat­ment can bet­ter heal the open wounds of the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims,’’ he said yes­ter­day.

‘‘The Aus­tralian Govern­ment must con­sider pro­vid­ing mean­ing­ful and ad­e­quate coun­selling and repa­ra­tions to the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing through the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­dress com­pen­sa­tion scheme.’’

Other hu­man rights groups have said the ut­ter de­hu­man­i­sa­tion of the Afghan peo­ple was pal­pa­ble and de­manded that vic­tims of war crimes by Aus­tralian spe­cial forces be heard.

‘‘We de­serve jus­tice and ac­count­abil­ity and an end to the cul­ture of im­punity and se­crecy which has de­fined the con­flict in Afghanista­n, al­ways at the ex­pense of its peo­ple,’’ ad­vo­cate Ho­ria Mosadiq said.

A four­year in­ves­ti­ga­tion by In­spec­tor­Gen­eral of the Aus­tralian De­fence Force Paul Br­ere­ton laid bare the ex­ten­sive list of war crimes.

Some of the sol­diers ac­cused of atroc­i­ties are still serv­ing in the mil­i­tary.

De­fence chief An­gus Camp­bell has di­rected the head of the army to re­view each of their po­si­tions.

Gen­eral Camp­bell con­sid­ered abol­ish­ing the en­tire SAS reg­i­ment af­ter re­ceiv­ing the re­port.

‘‘But we be­lieve very strongly the path for­ward for de­vel­op­ing that reg­i­ment and Aus­tralia’s spe­cial op­er­a­tions ca­pa­bil­ity is by com­mit­ting to build­ing and work­ing with the peo­ple to see a bet­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion emerge.’’ — AAP

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