Photo: Australian Defence Force via ABC News

Australian prosecutors are set to receive evidence of war crimes in Afghanistan

The Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) in Australia, which was established to investigate allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan following the release of the Brereton report, commissioned by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF), is expected to hand its first brief of evidence to Commonwealth prosecutors by the middle of 2023.

It was alleged that between 2007 and 2013, Australian special forces were involved in “dozens of unlawful killings, the vast majority of which involved prisoners, and were deliberately covered up.” None of the killings, the Brereton report found, took place in the battlefields, and all victims were non-combatants.

On 19 November 2020, Australia’s army chief, General Angus Campbell, apologised for the killings, saying:  To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defence Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologise for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers.”

On 14 February 2023, the director general of the OSI, Chris Moraitis, informed the Australian Senate estimates that the office is investigating “between 40 and 50” alleged offences, some of which may have had multiple participants. Moraitis declined to specify how many Australians were being investigated, citing the complexity of the allegations.

He also revealed that the OSI’s capacity to gather evidence in Afghanistan has been limited since the fall of the Afghan government to the Taliban in August 2021.

The Brereton inquiry, which reported in 2020, found “credible” evidence to support allegations that 39 Afghan civilians were unlawfully killed by Australian special forces soldiers, implicating 25 current or former Australian Defence Force personnel in the alleged crimes.

In December 2022, the British Ministry of Defence launched an independent inquiry to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by British Armed Forces in Afghanistan during “mid-2010 to mid-2013. 

It has been alleged that British special forces, the SAS, “repeatedly killed detainees and unarmed men in suspicious circumstances” in Afghanistan.