Scott Morrison has warned the nation to brace Australia’s defence force in Afghanistan for reports of “serious and possibly criminal conduct”that could see soldiers prosecuted for unlawful killings.
A special prosecutor will be named to consider reports of war crimes by Australian soldiers in the Middle East after the conclusion of a long-running defence inquiry into the accusations, the Prime Minister announced today.
“This is going to be very difficult for Australians. It is going to be very difficult for our serving community and our veterans community,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“It is going to be difficult for all of us. But what we are seeking to do, as a government, I think what we have to do as a country, is to absorb this in a way that enables us to uphold the integrity of our justice system and uphold the integrity of our defence forces. We rely vitally on both of these institutions, absolutely vitally.
“Given the likely allegations of serious and possibly criminal misconduct, the matters raised in the inquiry must be assessed, investigated and where allegations are substantiated, prosecuted in court. To undertake this role, the government is establishing the Office of the Special Investigator.”
Senator Reynolds said 39,000 Australians had served in Afghanistan and the report in “no way” undermined the work of the vast majority of these soldiers.
“They served with great distinction and 41 Australians lost their lives in that process,’’ she said.
“Today we have, as minister, I could not be prouder of the work our men and women are doing on bushfire and COVID-19 assist.
Mr Morrison said that if charges were ultimately recommended, the soldiers would be dealt with by “Australian justice.”