Ex-ministers call for Australian military leadership to be held accountable for war crimes

Source: Xinhua| 2020-08-12 18:19:11|Editor: huaxia

CANBERRA, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Two former Australian Defence Ministers have called for military leaders to be held to account over alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

Brendan Nelson who served as the defence minister between 2006 and 2007, was quoted by News Corp Australia on Wednesday as saying that "the guilty will be appropriately punished" if war crimes were committed.

"We need to ask, 'Where has the chain of command been?" he said.

His successor Joel Fitzgibbon, the minister for defence between 2007 and 2009 and current frontbencher for the opposition Labor Party, said that if an upcoming report found that special forces troops broke the laws of war in Afghanistan "they'll need to answer for it."

"But so too must those in leadership positions who allowed any bad culture to emerge from the fog of war," he said.

The former ministers spoke ahead of a report, to be released within weeks, on dozens of alleged war crimes committed by Australians in Afghanistan with a particular focus on the Special Air Service (SAS) and Commando regiments who have been accused of killing unarmed civilians on multiple occasions.

The report, which incumbent Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has warned will be "uncomfortable" reading, is expected to lead to criminal charges.

Angus Campbell, the Chief of the Defence Force, has commissioned an independent expert, historian Tom Frame, to examine the cultural and leadership failings that led to the alleged war crimes.

Nelson said that the review was recognition "that perhaps there has been a failure to some extent, at least culturally, in the chain of command."

"If a particular culture has developed within an element of the military, in this case the special forces, you have to ask yourself, in terms of the leadership, how that evolved and was able to take root and be present for such a period of time."

He also said that the "political class" of which he was a member would have to bear responsibility for sending special forces to Afghanistan to fight in Australia's names.

"I am also extremely mindful of the detrimental, and in some cases very significant detrimental impact, psychologically, that repeated deployments of this type had upon them," he said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has repeatedly reported eyewitness accounts of alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

In July it published allegations that SAS troops were responsible for a "mass shooting" of 11 Afghan civilians during a 2012 raid in the country's Kandahar Province. Enditem

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