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AIHRC calls for prosecution of war crimes by Australian forces

Graphic: AIHRC Chairperson Shaharzad Akbar

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said Australia is morally and legally obliged to investigate human rights violations.

The Afghanistan Inquiry Report by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force, Major General Justice Paul Brereton, has found that Australian forces engaged in murder and brutalisation of Afghans, including children.

Behind these deliberate and inhuman acts of violence was a consensus that Afghan life – whether of men, women or children – had no inherent worth or dignity, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said in a statement.

The report found that Australian forces murdered 39 Afghans and subjected a further two to cruel treatment. Twenty-five perpetrators were identified.

The vast majority of cases where the persons were killed occurred after they had been captured and were under the control of Australian forces. As such, they were protected under international law.


These breaches of International Humanitarian Law and the Law of Armed Conflict clearly constitute war crimes.

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission Logo Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission

The AIHRC said Australia was morally and legally obliged to investigate breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the Law of Armed Conflict committed by its armed forces.

However, the AIHRC noted that the Brereton Inquiry had not established the necessary evidence to ensure criminal prosecution of the alleged perpetrators.

"It is now of the utmost importance that criminal prosecution is sought," the AIHRC said.

The AIHRC said it welcomed the Australian Prime Minister's initiative to establish an Office of the Special Investigator. The work of the new body "must focus on criminal prosecution of the perpetrators and uncovering the full extent of the atrocities that took place".

"To the extent possible, the AIHRC will continue to share evidence regarding breaches of IHL by Australian forces with the relevant bodies."

The AIHRC also called on the Australian Government to commit to listening to Afghan victims' demands for truth and justice.

"To this end, the Office of the Special Investigator should resource a Victims Unit to work directly with victims. Victims' right to adequate compensation, through a body separate from the Office of the Special Investigator, to avoid a conflict of interest, must be met without delay."

While welcoming the apology made by the Australian Government, the AIHRC said the Government should resource memorials for communities so they may remember loved ones so brutally killed.

"In addition to the incidents being investigated, the Office of the Special Investigator should speak to victims and communities in a bid to uncover further human rights violations," the AIHRC said.

The AIHRC noted that media reporting indicates that U.S and U.K. armed forces may have committed similar acts of violence against Afghan non-combatants, including detainees and civilians.

The AIHRC called on the U.S., the U.K. and other countries with an armed presence in Afghanistan to respond to these media reports.

In particular, the AIHRC calls on the U.K. to open an independent public inquiry to review and investigate allegations of unlawful killings by U.K. special forces.

"Only through a series of independent inquiries will we uncover the true extent of this disregard for Afghan life, which normalised murder and resulted in war crimes," the AIHRC said.

"Only through further investigation, documentation and engagement with victims, will victims' right to truth and justice be met."

Date: 19 November 2020

Source: Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission


Image credits

  1. AIHRC Chairperson Shaharzad Akbar - Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission