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Australian Defence force unlawfully killed many civilians in Afghanistan

The Brereton Report described the actions as a ‘disgraceful and a profound betrayal’


by: Marta Rodriguez


Published last week, the Brereton Report revealed that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) committed war crimes when in Afghanistan, allegedly killing 39 civilians in 23 incidents.


The photo is an illustration. Photo courtesy of Amber Clay via Pixabay.



Australia has had troops in Afghanistan since 2002, their task initially being to train Afghan troops. According to the investigation of Paul Brereton, who interviewed more than 400 witnesses, during their time in Afghanistan, a small elite group of the Special Air services brutally murdered Afghan civilians including prisoners and farmers all of them non-combatants.


The killings were done in cold blood, not during ‘the heat of battle’ and allegedly included throat-slitting, kill counts and rejoicing in their actions - it has been said. Photographs of the bodies were taken displaying soldiers placing guns on their victims, and cover stories were invented to justify their actions. Some of the killings were done by junior soldiers so that they would get their first kill by shooting prisoners. This is known as ‘blooding’.


A total of 25 perpetrators have been identified, some of which are still serving in the ADF.

Many different reactions came after this report. The ADF has blamed the crimes on an ‘unchecked warrior culture’. On the other hand, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologized to the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani expressing his ‘deepest sorrow’. Australia’s foreign ministry said that the actions in the report were ‘unforgivable’ but that the fact that the report had been published was ‘an important step towards justice’.


The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said that the report, though welcome, did not provide enough evidence for criminal prosecution.

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