Civilians killed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

Afghan child hiding amongst soldiers in Afghanistan Afghan child hiding amongst soldiers in Afghanistan Australian War Memorial/ACIJ

19 November 2020 

ADF inquiry reveals “credible evidence” that Australian elite soldiers unlawfully killed civilians during the Afghan war, amounting to "war crimes"

According to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), 25 special forces soldiers had taken part, either directly or as accessories in the unlawful killing of civilians between 2009 and 2013. A total of 39 Afghan civilians or prisoners of war were killed and have been recommended by the ADF to be investigated by federal police. If accepted by a jury, the ADF inquiry claims that 23 of those incidents would amount to “the war crime of murder” and a further two amounting to “the war crime of cruel treatment.”

As part of the inquiry, more than 400 interviews with witnesses were conducted finding evidence of a “blood lust” and “warrior-hero” culture amongst the special forces. Commanders allegedly rewarded junior soldiers for killing “helpless Afghans” and planting weapons and radios nearby to support claims that the victims had been enemies killed in action. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) welcomed the inquiry, describing the findings as a “disregard for Afghan life, which normalised murder, and resulted in war crimes.” The AIHRC advocated for an additional series of independent inquiries to be conducted and for adequate compensation to be provided without delay.

In a statement to the Human Rights Law Centre, Hadi Marifat, Executive Director at the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization expressed concern that the report is missing concrete recommendations on reparations and counselling mechanisms for the Afghan victims and their families. The establishment of a redress compensation scheme in consultation with the Afghan victims was strongly advocated by Marifat. For Horia Mosadiq, Executive Director at the Conflict Analysis Network, it is hoped and expected that the Afghan victims are able to participate in the forthcoming criminal investigations and have the chance to be heard.


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Author: Catherine Gregoire

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