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19 November 2020

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has called for Australian Defence Force commanders to take personal responsibility for the command failures that allowed war crimes to be committed by ADF personnel in Afghanistan. He has also called on the Australian Parliament, which endorsed and supported Australia’s military engagement in Afghanistan, to also make a formal apology to the people of Afghanistan. 

“The report of the inquiry by Justice Paul Brereton into war crimes in Afghanistan tells a very disturbing and deeply shameful story”, Senator Patrick said.

“As a former member of the Australian Defence Force, I am absolutely appalled by the revelations of at least 39 unlawful killings by ADF personnel. This is a very grim day for the standing of the ADF.”

“While Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghan, and Defence Force Chief General Angus Campbell today apologised on behalf of the ADF, the Australian Parliament should support a national apology to the people of Afghanistan. This is a grave matter that must be addressed at the centre of Australia’s democracy.”

“The Parliament should also endorse efforts wherever possible to provide support to the families of the victims.”

“While the necessary legal processes relating to individuals must run their course, it is clear that ADF personnel have murdered captured enemy combatants and civilians. Our troops unlawfully killed the very people that they were sent to Afghanistan to help protect.”

“The individuals responsible for these atrocities must be fully held to account. So too must those in the ADF chain of command who were responsible for the units and operations in question. There appears to have been a totally unacceptable breakdown of oversight, control and discipline.”

"In the Navy, when a ship runs aground, the Captain is held responsible whether or not they were on the bridge at the time. That's what responsibility and accountability in the Navy is all about, and this should apply across the Defence Forces."

“Unit and taskforce commanders, past and present, must step up and take personal responsibility for the actions of their personnel in what were clearly not isolated incidents. They should not await potentially protracted disciplinary and administrative processes of further investigation. Those commanders should step forward now, and publicly accept moral responsibility for their grave failures of command".

"They should fall on their swords.”

“The Parliament, through its committee processes, will need to closely monitor and scrutinize the Defence Department’s response to the Brereton report.  This will require close attention for years to come.”

"Restoring a fully professional culture in our Special Forces must be a priority".

"We must also support those members of the ADF that had the courage to speak up. Consistent with this, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions must reconsider and then drop the prosecution of Mr David McBride. Persecution of whistleblowers is not in the public interest. Mr McBride is a hero".

"If the CDDP fails to do so, in exercising his ultimate responsibility to the Parliament for Commonwealth prosecutions, the Attorney-General should order the discontinuance of the prosecution under powers afforded him by section 71(1) of the Judiciary Act".