Elite Australian soldiers to be investigated for the alleged murder of 39 civilians outside combat operations in Afghanistan, Australian Defense Forces Chief Angus Campbell announced Thursday, while expressing his “sincere apologies” to the Afghan people.
Campbell presented on Thursday the final report of the Inspectorate General of the Australian Defense Forces on the alleged war crimes committed by its soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005, the year in which it reinforced its military presence, and 2016, when the investigation was ordered.
The report recommends that 19 soldiers are investigated for these incidents, none of which were committed “under pressure in the heat of combat.”
The military chief declared at a press conference in Canberra that the report reveals “credible information that corroborates 23 incidents of alleged illegal killings of 39 people at the hands of 25 members of the Australian special forces “.
Campbell indicated that many of the incidents were part of “initiation rituals” of the new soldiers, adding that those involved also placed weapons and radios on the bodies of murdered civilians as part of what he called a “culture of toxic competition” within the elite forces.
In these “shameful records”, which mostly occurred in the years 2012 and 2013, “it is presumed that some patrols took the law into their own hands, They broke the laws, lied and killed prisoners “, while “allegedly discouraging, intimidating and discrediting those who wanted to speak,” Campbell said.
The military chief said that accepted the final report in its entirety, as well as its 143 recommendations, and will refer cases of suspected crimes to the special office dedicated to investigating allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, which was created last week by the Australian government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said earlier in a statement that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called him on the phone “to express his deep sorrow for the misbehavior of some Australian soldiers in Afghanistan” and also promised that these crimes “be investigated and justice done.”
Australia went on to deploy up 1,500 soldiers for combat operations between 2001 and 2014 in Afghanistan, which was considered the largest military contribution of a country outside the Atlantic Alliance, and since then it has kept small military detachments dedicated to training and training tasks.