GENERAL Angus Campbell, Australia’s Defence Force (ADF) chief, says he accepts that officers and senior commanders mishandled alleged war crime accusations against special forces in Afghanistan.
Former and serving special forces soldiers are frustrated at the failure of the landmark Brereton report revelations to lead to sanctions against commanders at the highest level.
The International Committee of the Red Cross described the alleged war crimes as “deeply troubling and disturbing”.
After a four-year inquiry, Maj Gen Paul Brereton found credible information to substantiate the alleged murder of 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians by 25 Australian special forces soldiers.
In a TV interview Campbell was asked about the report’s finding that commanders “indirectly contributed to the criminal behaviour” by “sanitising or embellishing reporting to avoid attracting questions”.
He said he accepted the report’s finding “that there are officers in command roles in the special operations task group and indeed in higher appointments who had a responsibility to deal with issues and to completely and openly report, and he finds fault there”.
Campbell, who was commander in the Middle East in 2011, admitted that ultimately he would be held to account for his own performance in the Middle East.
The ADF chief added that there was military of all ranks “looking at this report and reflecting on their part in this story and it is not a good story at all”.
Campbell said he was “determined to see deep, comprehensive and enduring change where it is needed” and fix the problems exposed in last week’s report, otherwise “this horror may appear again”.
He cautiously backed calls for the ADF to mandate helmet or body cameras for Australian special forces, as it would allow for the creation of a “digital archive” and help to resolve any claims that arose in future.
NOTE: If the British Government’s Overseas Operations Bill is passed, as seems likely, UK military accused of committing or covering up similar war crimes will be protected from prosecution.
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