The Chief of Army was left “sickened” by the findings of a landmark investigation into allegations of war crimes levelled against Australian Special Forces, which recommended 19 defence personnel be investigated for allegedly illegally killing people in Afghanistan.
- The investigation found credible information relating to war crimes allegedly committed by Australian Special Forces
- Lieutenant General Rick Burr said he was determined to lead the Army to “a better place”
- An SAS squadron embroiled in the allegations will be removed from the order of battle
The inquiry by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) was released on Thursday, and found “credible information” that 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners had been unlawfully killed, and another two subjected to cruel treatment.
Paul Brereton, a justice of the New South Wales Court of Appeal, found junior troopers were forced to kill Afghans, in a practice known as “blooding”, to allow them to achieve their first kill.
Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell said the ADF accepted all the findings of the Brereton inquiry, and would work to implement its recommendations.
Chief of Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr was at Special Air Service (SAS) headquarters in Perth when the findings were released, and it was announced one of its squadrons would be removed from the order of battle.
“I was sick. I was sickened, particularly by the allegations of blooding,” Lieutenant General Burr told the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes.
“I was shocked by the extent of the alleged unlawful acts that were described in the report.
On Sunday, ADF Chief Angus Campbell told the ABC a recommendation from the Brereton inquiry for soldiers to wear body cameras was a “good idea”.
Soldiers were accused of trying to cover up murders by planting weapons and radios next to their bodies, after they were killed.
Any prosecutions of ADF personnel could take years, as some of the evidence gathered by the IGADF is not admissible in a civilian court. Soldiers were compelled to answer questions in the internal Defence probe, going against the civil principle of the right against self incrimination.
A special investigator has been created within the Australian Federal Police to investigate the allegations from the Brereton inquiry, and a special prosecutor has been appointed within the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to handle any court cases.