22 November 2020
Independent Senator Rex Patrick today confirmed his intention to move a Senate motion to convey an apology to the people of Afghanistan for war crimes committed by members of the Australian Defence Force.
“As a former member of the Australian Defence Force, I am appalled by the revelations of the report by Justice Paul Brereton into war crimes committed by ADF personnel in Afghanistan”, Senator Patrick said.
“Similar reactions have been expressed by many other MPs and Senators, including other former ADF members serving in the Federal Parliament.”
“Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, has apologised on behalf of the Australian Defence Force. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Senator Lynda Reynolds have apologised on behalf of the Australian Government. However it is also incumbent on the Australian Parliament to collectively express our deep regret and apologies to the people of Afghanistan on behalf of the people of Australia.
“Australia’s long military commitment in Afghanistan, which has seen the loss of 41 ADF members while on duty there, has been directed to support the security, democratic freedoms and human rights of the people of Afghanistan.”
“That commitment was first endorsed by the Australian Parliament in September 2001 and the Parliament should now accept its responsibility to address the grave matters that have now been revealed.”
“To this end I have prepared a draft motion which I intend to move the Senate. If adopted, that draft would express the Senate’s sincere and unreserved apology to the people of Afghanistan and express support for a full measure of recompense to the families of the victims.”
“The motion would be appropriately conveyed by the President of the Senate, Senator Scott Ryan, to the Ambassador for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, His Excellency Mr Wahidullah Waissi, with a request that it be transmitted to the presiding officers of the National Assembly of Afghanistan, the President of the Meshrano Jirga or House of Elders, and the President of the Wolesi Jirga, the House of the People.”
Senator Patrick said: “I am open to discuss any amendments, changes or additions that other Senators may wish to make to the draft motion. It is most desirable, if possible, to secure the support of all parties in the Senate.”
“I would also hope that a similar motion may be moved in the House of Representatives and it would be desirable if the same text were adopted by both Houses of the Parliament.”
“I would particularly urge the other 20 former ADF members, with service experience ranging from that of a private in the Army Reserves to that of a Major-General, to support the adoption of a national Parliamentary apology to the people of Afghanistan.”
“This is a most grave matter that must be addressed at the heart of Australia’s democracy.”
Motion to be moved by leave
That the Senate—
(1) Expresses deep concern at the findings of the Inspector‐General of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry that 39 civilians or prisoners were unlawfully killed by or at the direction of members of the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan, and that two other persons were cruelly mistreated;
(2) Affirms that unlawful killing or mistreatment of civilians or prisoners are war crimes and constitute grave breaches of military conduct and professional values of the Australian Defence Force.
(3) Acknowledges that the alleged behaviour of a small cohort of Australian Defence Force personnel profoundly disrespected the trust placed in them by the people of Australia and Afghanistan;
(4) Sincerely and unreservedly apologises to the people of Afghanistan for any and all wrongdoing by this small cohort of Australian Defence Force members;
(5) Expresses deep sympathy and remorse to the Afghan families that have been caused immeasurable pain and suffering, and urges that Australian Government ensure that a full measure of recompense is available to those families and communities; and
(6) Asks that the President of the Senate respectfully convey this motion to the Ambassador for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with a request that it be transmitted to the presiding officers of the National Assembly of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.