The findings of the Brereton report have just been released. They are truly shocking.
Australian special forces were allegedly involved in the murder of 39 Afghan civilians and cruelly treated two others.
In some cases, they allegedly executed prisoners to “blood” or initiate junior soldiers, giving them their first kill, before inventing cover stories and planting weapons on corpses to hide their actions..
Brereton’s report describes the special forces’ actions as “disgraceful and a profound betrayal” of the Australian Defence Force and all it stands for.
His report details 23 incidents in which 39 Afghans were unlawfully killed, either by special forces or at the instruction of special forces.
None of the killings took place in the heat of battle, and they took place in circumstances which, if accepted by a jury, would constitute the war crime of murder, the report found.
All the victims were either non-combatants or were no longer combatants, the report finds. A total of 25 perpetrators have been identified either as principals or accessories. Some are still serving in the ADF.
In all cases, the report finds it “was or should have been plain that the person killed was a non-combatant”. The vast majority of victims had been captured and were under control, giving them the protection under international law.
Brereton has been investigating shocking allegations against elite Australian troops since 2016, when he was tasked with examining dozens of incidents in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.
His work involved reviewing 20,000 documents and 25,000 images. His team interviewed 423 witnesses.
“We embarked on this inquiry with the hope that we would be able to report that the rumours of war crimes were without substance. None of us desired the outcome to which we have come,” he said. “We are all diminished by it.”
Aside from criminal prosecution, his recommendations include paying immediate compensation to victims and their families, revoking the meritorious unit citation to the entire Special Operations Task Group, and potentially cancelling the individual medals for those concerned.