Australian special forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, with senior commandos reportedly forcing junior soldiers to kill defenceless captives in order to “blood” them for combat, a four year investigation found.
Australia said on Thursday that 19 current and former soldiers will be referred for potential criminal prosecution for allegedly killing the 39 Afghan locals.
Detailing the findings of a long-awaited inquiry into the conduct of special forces personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, Australia’s General Angus John Campbell said there was credible information of 39 unlawful killings by 25 Australian Special Forces personnel in 23 separate incidents.
All of those kills were outside the “heat of battle”, Campbell said.
“These findings allege the most serious breaches of military conduct and professional values,” Campbell told reporters in Canberra.
“The unlawful killing, of civilians and prisoners is never acceptable.”
The report said the majority of those killed, which included prisoners, farmers and other Afghan locals, were captured when they were killed and therefore protected under international law.
Following the recommendations of the report, Campbell said 19 current and former members of Australia’s military will be referred to a soon-to-be appointed special investigator to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.
Australia’s Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said last week that Canberra had been advised that local prosecution would negate charges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier warned the report would include “difficult and hard news for Australians”, but few expected some of the most shocking revelations.
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