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Brereton Inquiry: Scott Morrison says ADF war crimes report is ‘highly sensitive’

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An explosive report into allegations of war crimes by Australian troops will be taken “very seriously” by the government, the Prime Minister has said.

Defence chief Angus Campbell has received the report from the inspector-general of the Australian Defence Force, who was tasked in 2016 with investigating dozens of incidents, including alleged unlawful killings, in Afghanistan from 2005 until that year.

“It is a very, very serious issue and the government will be taking it very seriously,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Saturday.

“We will be abiding by the proper legal and institutional processes that are appropriate here.”

Defence Force chief Angus Campbell has received a report into alleged war crimes by Aussie troops in Afghanistan. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
media_cameraDefence Force chief Angus Campbell has received a report into alleged war crimes by Aussie troops in Afghanistan. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

Asked what level of information the public will be allowed to see, the Prime Minister said he will have more to say about that next week.

“At this stage though, the (chief of the Defence Force) has received the report. It goes to highly sensitive matters,” Mr Morrison said.

“It is important that we run a process here that respects the integrity of our defence forces, that upholds the standard all Australians would expect of the defence forces, and to ensure people are treated fairly in that process as well.”

The Defence inspector-general has confirmed in its most recent annual report that at least 55 separate incidents involving alleged law breaches during the war have been examined.

An explosive report into allegations of war crimes by Australian troops will be taken ‘very seriously’ by the government, the Prime Minister has said. Picture: Chris Kidd
media_cameraAn explosive report into allegations of war crimes by Australian troops will be taken ‘very seriously’ by the government, the Prime Minister has said. Picture: Chris Kidd

These involved allegations of “predominantly unlawful killings of persons who were non-combatants or were no longer combatants, but also ‘cruel treatment’ of such persons”, according to the annual report.

Hundreds of witnesses have been interviewed during the inquiry, which has been conducted by a small team of military officers.

The decision to keep the team working on the investigation small was made because it was deemed easier to prevent leaks of sensitive information from the probe, the annual report stated.

In a statement on Friday, General Campbell said: “The independent inquiry was commissioned by Defence in 2016 after rumours and allegations emerged relating to possible breaches of the Law of Armed Conflict by members of the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan over the period 2005 to 2016.”

That decision was made after an earlier report, by defence consultant Samantha Crompvoets, alerted the Defence chief about claims of unlawful killings and torture allegedly committed by some Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

The contents of the Crompvoets report was leaked to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, which reported allegations that some soldiers slit the throats of teenage villagers and in some cases “gloated” about illegal killings.

In his statement on Friday, General Campbell said: “I intend to speak about the key findings once I have read and reflected on the report.”

Originally published as ‘Very serious’: Explosive army report drops

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