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Afghanistan panel suggests military top brass be held 'accountable' for command failures over alleged war crimes.

  • In short: An independent panel has warned a lack of accountability from Australia's military top brass over alleged war crimes in Afghanistan has led to "anger and bitter resentment" from troops and veterans. 

  • The panel said it disagreed with the landmark 2020 Brereton inquiry's view that some responsibility for the "murder" of 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians could not fall on the most senior officers.

  • What's next? Defence Minister Richard Marles is still considering recommendations on the stripping of honours and awards for senior figures over the alleged crimes that occurred under their command.

An independent panel found a lack of accountability from Australia's military top brass has generated "anger and bitter resentment".(Supplied: Defence Department)
Independent panel finds lack of accountability from Australia's military top brass caused "anger and bitter resentment".(Supplied: Defence Department)

Serving and former defence chiefs, including Governor General David Hurley, are facing fresh calls to take responsibility for command failures which may have led to alleged war crimes in Afghanistan under their watch.

A report from an independent panel appointed to oversee the landmark Brereton inquiry has finally been released, warning that a lack of accountability from Australia's military top brass has generated "anger and bitter resentment" among troops and veterans.


In 2020, a report prepared for the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force by Justice Paul Brereton recommended 19 soldiers be investigated by police for the "murder" of 39 Afghan prisoners and civilians, and the cruel treatment of two others.


Now, the subsequent Afghanistan Inquiry Implementation Oversight Panel has rejected Justice Brereton's conclusion that senior commanders should not be held accountable for the murders of 39 Afghans.


"The Panel did not agree with the Brereton Inquiry's view that some accountability and responsibility could not fall on the most senior officers and it suggested that issue should be the subject of further consideration," it said. 


"There is ongoing anger and bitter resentment amongst present and former members of the special forces, many of whom served with distinction in Afghanistan, that their senior officers have not publicly accepted some responsibility for policies or decisions that contributed to the misconduct, such as the overuse of special forces."

Richard Marles is still considering Angus Campbell's recommendation to strip senior figures of honours and awards. (Supplied: Department of Defence)

Members of the oversight panel, led by former inspector-general of intelligence and security Vivienne Thom, also compared the failure of senior Defence leaders to accept accountability for war crimes to company bosses who face dismissal or even criminal charges for corporate collapses.


"In the private sector, major corporate failures result in both an organisational and individual responsibility," the report handed to the government in November 2023 states.



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