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Defence Insists Due Process Was Given to Accused Soldiers in Brereton Report

By defence correspondent Andrew Greene

Posted Tue 16 May 2023 at 5:39am


The officer leading the Australian Defence Force's (ADF) response to the Afghanistan war crimes inquiry has hit back at claims the military has denied proper legal process to soldiers implicated in the findings.


Key points:

  • The SAS Association says Defence attempted to administratively dismiss the individuals previously

  • Defence insists "all these members were afforded due process and legal support"

  • Veterans' groups are frustrated at the lack of action against senior officers who ran the Afghanistan war



Following the release of the damning Brereton report in November 2020, Defence confirmed Army had "initiated administrative action against 17 individuals where there was an alleged failure to meet ADF expectations and values identified in the Afghanistan Report".


In recent correspondence sent by the Head of the Afghanistan Inquiry Response Task Force, Defence insists "all these members were afforded due process and legal support".


"Each matter was considered on an individual basis, in accordance with administrative law requirements," Rear Admiral Brett Wolski wrote in a letter dated March 8.


"Of the 17, some were separated on medical grounds, others continued to serve. No members were administratively dismissed."


SAS Community Has 'HAD ENOUGH'

Confirmation of medical, rather than administrative discharges, from the Army was sent to the Australian Special Air Service Association in response to wide-ranging concerns raised by its national chairman, Martin Hamilton-Smith.


Mr Hamilton-Smith, a former South Australian politician and SAS soldier, had written to Defence chief Angus Campbell in February expressing concern over the Army's treatment of veterans from the elite Perth-based regiment following the Brereton findings.


"The outcome we seek is for you as CDF to desist from any action founded in a presumption of guilt or designed to punish or constructively dismiss from ADF employment any soldier not proven to have done something wrong."


The SAS Association's letter and the ADF's formal responses were quietly uploaded to the Defence's website one week ago, on the same day the federal budget was released.


Speaking after the release of the correspondence, Mr Hamilton-Smith said the SAS community has "had enough and we are going to be standing up for these soldiers and the excellent job they did in our name in Afghanistan".


"There was an attempt to administratively discharge 17 soldiers, none of those attempts were successful," Mr Hamilton-Smith told the ABC.


"It was in effect a form of unfair dismissal and it appears that Defence could not make its case so instead Defence has resorted to medical discharges of soldiers."


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