War Crimes Royal Commission Needed, Brereton Inquiry Deficient

The Australia Institute has released a discussion paper, critical of the Brereton Inquiry, and calling for a Royal Commission into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Key findings:

  • Justice Brereton was given narrow terms of reference to establish matters of fact, not to assign or excuse responsibility or blame.
  • The finding that no information on potential war crimes had been given to “any government, of any persuasion” is not credible, or suggests major failings at the highest levels of the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
  • It is not credible that no senior military leaders were aware of rumours of war crimes and other criminal acts until 2015.

“War crimes are a stain on both our national reputation and that of the Australian Defence Force,” said Allan Behm, Director of the Institute’s International and Security Affairs program.

“In recent decades, the ADF and those who have served in it have become a prominent element of Australia’s national identity, which must be above reproach.

“The claim that no one in the higher chain of command knew what was going on with Australian troops in Afghanistan defies common sense.

“As with the large-scale incidences of institutional child sexual abuse, and the malfeasance of financial institutions in ripping off their customers, only a Royal Commission is able to address the core problems and prevent re-occurrence.

“The Australia Institute welcomes the appointment of Justice Mark Weinberg to the Office of the Special Investigator. However, while he will address the consequences of failures within the ADF, Justice Weinberg has neither the mandate nor the resources to investigate the cultural and systemic causal factors.

“A Royal Commission is needed to address the lack of strategic purpose surrounding the deployment of forces to Afghanistan, the breakdown of command and control systems, and the circumstances that led to elements of the Special Air Services Regiment behaving like a criminal gang.

“The breakdowns that led to war crimes must be fixed, otherwise they will re-occur.”

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