Australian soldiers are accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan as part of a campaign of cruelty against prisoners while touring the war-torn country.
The damned results were set out in an important report on alleged Australian war crimes in Afghanistan released on Thursday.
The four-year investigation revealed a "shameful record" of unlawful killings, including cases of new patrol members being ordered to shoot a prisoner in order to obtain their first kill in an "appalling practice" known as "bleeding."
There was also evidence that troops participated in "body counting contests" and covered up illegal killings by staging skirmishes, planting weapons and post-adding names to target lists.
One particular incident, which was fully edited in the report, has been described as "possibly the most shameful episode in Australian military history".
The 465-page report, which attributes the murders in part to a "warrior hero" culture among the special forces, recommended that 19 people be prosecuted and called for major reforms of the Australian military.
After September 11, more than 26,000 Australian workers were sent to Afghanistan to join the US and allied forces in fighting the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other groups.
In the past few years, a number of often brutal reports of the behavior of elite special forces have surfaced – from reports of troops killing a six-year-old child in a house attack to a prisoner shot for space in a house to save helicopters.
Another incident involved two 14-year-old boys who were stopped by SAS and decided they might be Taliban sympathizers.
The boy's throats were allegedly cut and their bodies packed and thrown into a nearby river.
Angus Campbell, chief of the Australian Defense Forces, said some Australian patrols "took the law into their own" adding that "rules were broken, stories made up, lies told and prisoners killed".
General Campbell said "none of the alleged unlawful murders has been described as being in the heat of battle".
One of the murders was described in the report as "possibly the most shameful episode in Australian military history," but details have been completely revised.
"I cannot speak to the particular circumstances," said General Campbell.
& # 39; That's why it's being edited. But Justice Brereton describes something that is utterly shameful. It is true that it must be legally edited. In time, in the time of the story to be written, it becomes shameful. & # 39;
He apologized for the unlawful killing of prisoners, farmers and other civilians, adding that the troops involved had "tainted" Australia.
"I sincerely and unreservedly apologize to the people of Afghanistan on behalf of the Australian Armed Forces for the misconduct of Australian soldiers," he said.
"And I am truly sorry for the people of Australia that the Australian Defense Forces did something wrong."
Australian soldiers are accused of murdering 39 people in Afghanistan and treating prisoners with cruelty (Image: Soldiers in Afghanistan)
One of the murders was described in the report as "possibly the most shameful episode in Australian military history", but the details have been completely revised (Image: Chapter 2.50 of the Afghanistan investigation report).
He went on to outline how the "egocentric warrior culture" had led to "cutting corners, ignoring rules and bending them."
& # 39; Cutting corners, ignoring rules and bending has been normalized. What also turned out was a toxic competitiveness between the end of the Second Command Regiment through the Special Air Service Regiment, ”he said.
The Inspector General of the Australian Defense Forces has been investigating allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan since 2016.
In four years Justice Paul Brereton interviewed more than 400 witnesses and examined tens of thousands of documents.
DISTRIBUTING DETAILS CLAIMED IN THE REPORT:
Bleeding: There was evidence that junior soldiers were being ordered by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner in a practice known as "bleeding" in order to obtain their first kill.
Throwdowns: Credible evidence suggests that some soldiers carried out "drops" in which they gave weapons and military equipment to a victim in order to create the appearance that the person killed was a legitimate target.
Judge Brereton found there was credible evidence of 23 incidents in which a total of 39 Afghan nationals were illegally killed.
He identified two other cases where prisoners were cruelly treated by elite Australian forces.
Some of the Afghan nationals killed did not participate in hostilities, while the majority were prisoners of war.
Justice Brereton identified 25 current or former ADF employees who are alleged to have committed one or more war crimes.
The report covered the period from 2005 to 2016, but almost all incidents detected occurred between 2009 and 2013.
"None of these are incidents of controversial decisions taken under pressure in the heat of battle," the report said.
"The cases where it has been established that there is credible information about a war crime are those in which it was clear or should have been that the person killed was a non-combatant."
Dozens of other investigated allegations could not be substantiated.
Judge Brereton also noted that there was credible evidence that some soldiers carried "throws down" such as guns and military equipment to create the appearance that the person killed was a legitimate target.
Lieutenant General Angus Campbell (pictured) released the report Thursday and blew the culture in the SAS
Judge Brereton also noted that there was credible evidence that some soldiers carried "throws down" such as guns and military equipment to create the appearance that the person killed was a legitimate target
There was also evidence that junior soldiers were ordered by their patrol commanders to shoot a prisoner in a practice known as "bleeding" in order to achieve their first kill.
"Usually the patrol commander takes a person under control and the junior member … is then instructed to kill the person under control," the report said.
"Throwdowns" – weapons, radios, or other equipment – were placed with the body and a "cover story" was created to allow operational coverage and distract control.
The investigation has recommended that the Chief Defense Officer refer 36 cases to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation.
The issues relate to 23 incidents and affect 19 people.
Justice Brereton blamed the patrol commanders most, believing they were most responsible for inciting or directing subordinates to commit war crimes.
The report recommended that administrative action be taken against some ADF employees who had credible evidence of wrongdoing but who did not qualify for criminal convictions
It was also recommended that Australia compensate the families of the illegally killed Afghans without waiting for prosecution
Main findings of the report:
- Special forces were responsible for 39 unlawful murders, most of which were prisoners and deliberately covered up.
- Thirty-nine Afghans were illegally killed in 23 incidents, either by special forces or on the orders of special forces.
- None of the murders took place in the heat of battle.
- All murders occurred in circumstances that, if accepted by a jury, would constitute a war crime of murder.
- 25 perpetrators were identified either as clients or as accessories. Some are still serving in the ADF.
"At the patrol commanders level, criminal behavior has been conceived, committed, continued and hidden, and it is at this level that responsibility rests predominantly."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously announced that a special investigator will pursue possible criminal prosecutions.
The position is not yet filled.
The report recommended that administrative action be taken against some ADF employees who have credible evidence of wrongdoing but who are insufficient to convict them.
It was also recommended that Australia compensate the families of the illegally killed Afghans without waiting for prosecution.
"This will be an important step in restoring Australia's international reputation, particularly with Afghanistan, and it is just the right thing."
The investigation also recommended that some individuals and groups be exempted from various service medals.
"It must be said that what this report reveals is a shame and a profound betrayal of the professional standards and expectations of the Australian Defense Forces," the report said.
& # 39; We started this investigation with the hope that we can report that the war crimes rumors were without substance.
“Neither of us wanted the result we came to. We are all diminished by it. & # 39;
Angus Campbell, chief of the Australian Defense Forces (pictured), apologized for the unlawful killing of prisoners, farmers and other civilians
The investigation also recommended that some individuals and groups be exempted from various service medals
The Alleged Crimes: A Timeline
* First alleged murder of a wounded Afghan prisoner
* Alleged murders of Afghan locals by ADF members through the complicity of the patrol commander
* Alleged attack and cruel treatment of the Afghan prisoner
* Alleged murders of Afghan prisoners, complicit in the patrol commander, and deletion of evidence to hide murders
* Various cases of alleged civilian murders by Australian soldiers
* Multiple alleged murders of prisoners and the use of throwdowns to hide murders
* Alleged murders of Afghan locals surrendering to Australian forces
* Alleged attack and cruel treatment of the Afghan prisoner
* Alleged killings of Afghan combatants who were separated from their weapons
* Alleged murder of civilians
* Alleged murder of prisoners
* The ADF inspector general asked to investigate rumors of wrongdoing and war crimes committed by Australian forces in Afghanistan
* Judge Paul Brereton and his team interviewed more than 400 witnesses and examined tens of thousands of documents during the four-year review
* Justice Brereton closes the investigation
* Defense chief Angus Campbell published a heavily edited version of the final report
* Credible Evidence 25 current and former ADF employees have committed war crimes
* 19 allegations were expelled from the Australian Federal Police for possible prosecution
* 39 Afghans are said to have been murdered by Australian troops between 2006 and 2016
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