Otago Daily Times

Demand for justice over crimes


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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