ALLEGED WAR CRIMES – LTCOL (Retd) Jim Hislop OAM
Several of our servicemen will be charged at some time in the future with ALLEGED War Crimes carried out in Afghanistan. These men are members of the SASR who take on the most dangerous of missions, usually well outside the range of supporting artillery, have only a split second to assess a situation and react. Some may be guilty of War Crimes and some may be innocent, but they all deserve their day in an appropriate court, it is morally wrong to tar all with the same brush.
Prime Minister Morrison has apologised to his Afghani counterpart for these alleged war crimes and offered compensation, General Campbell has threatened to disband a SAS Squadron, remove a unit citation, remove awards (mass punishment) and pay compensation. All of this has been done before any crime has been proved, have we forgotten “a person is deemed to be innocent until proved guilty”. The Prime Minister and the CDF should now ask the Australian people for forgiveness for the stance they have taken, I expect senior counsel will have a ball with both gentlemen when this case gets to court. Could they have influenced the views of prospective jurors?
General Brereton has found these alleged crimes were carried out by the lower ranks and that senior officers were too far away from the action to be aware of what was happening. Interesting as General Campbell was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for leadership in action, was this the action of 2 Sqn SAS the unit he intends to disband? Will he return his award?
I do not condone these alleged crimes and I believe that if any of these men are guilty of war crimes, they must be punished. The Government committed the SAS to these operations where the enemy did not wear military uniforms, used improvised explosive devices to kill and maim our servicemen, suicide bombers killed their opposition and civilians, rogue Afghani soldiers fired on our troops inside base camps. Afghanistan is not a nice place to be yet higher military command committed many of our troops to multiple deployments and did not consider the physical and mental toll.
Probably our highest profile ex-servicemen Ben Roberts-Smith VC is going to have to sell his VC medal to support his legal expenses. What a disgraceful situation, the Government sent him to an unwinnable war, senior officers kept away from the action and this man has to “hock” his medal. The Government should pay for the best legal team to defend these ALLEGED war criminals, not officers of the Legal Corps but top civilian Senior Counsel. If the Government do not fund the defence of these men, then maybe a “Go Fund Me” appeal will be necessary.