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Investigation launched into 'war crimes' carried out by Australian special forces in Afghanistan

The inquiry focuses on the extrajudicial killings of civilians and former combatants [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 February, 2020

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The inquiry was launched following 'very serious' rumours that Australian special forces had killed unarmed Afghan men and children in separate incidents spanning over ten years.
Australia opened an investigation into 55 alleged war crimes committed by the country's special forces in Afghanistan, including unlawful killings and the inhumane treatment of civilians and former enemy combatants, according to a military watchdog on Tuesday.

The investigations, which relate to killings which took place between 2005 to 2016, has called on 338 witnesses to provide testimony and is now nearing the 'final stages of evidence-taking', Aljazeera reported.

An annual report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence force said that the inquiry did not focus "on decisions made during the 'heat of battle'."

Instead, it is aimed predominantly at the "unlawful killings of persons who were non-combatants or were no longer combatants" as well as the "'cruel treatment' of such persons", the report, tabled in Australian parliament on Tuesday, added. 

It will also examine the organisational, operational and cultural environment of the country's elite military unit in Afghanistan.

Read more: ICC could investigate UK for 'covering up war crimes' in Iraq, Afghanistan

The inquiry was launched following "very serious" rumours that Australian special forces troops, who were deployed alongside US and allied forces in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks, killed unarmed Afghan men and children.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said she expected the inquiry's final report to be delivered to the country's defence chief in the next few months.

"Where there are serious rumours and allegations raised about the conduct of our ADF members, Australians would rightly expect that they are thoroughly examined according to the rigorous and well-established processes in place," Senator Reynolds said, according to Australian Associated Press.

At least four investigations into alleged abuses by Australian special forces in Afghanistan are currently under way.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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