Sydney, Australia, Nov 12 (efe-epa).- A special investigator will be appointed to assess allegations of war crimes and potential charges stemming from Australian military deployments in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Thursday.
At a press conference, Morrison said that there are a “significant number of incidents or issues to be investigated further and that investigation will be inherently complex.”
“Given the likely allegations of serious and possibly criminal misconduct, the matters raised in the inquiry must be assessed, investigated and where allegations are substantiated, prosecuted in court,” said Morrison alongside Defense Minister Linda Reynolds.
The creation of an office of the investigator comes a week before the release of a report by the inspector general of the defense force, which since 2016 has been investigating allegations of unlawful killings and other possible breaches of the laws of armed conflict committed mainly by the country’s elite forces.
Morrison braced for “difficult and hard news for Australians… to hear,” but did not go into the content of the inspector general’s report, which last week was delivered to the government.
The office of the special investigator, which will be established under the Department of Home Affairs, is expected to begin operations next year and will have the power to bring to justice those suspected to be guilty of war crimes.
The Australian government, which will seek international cooperation to assess complaints, will also implement a new oversight panel to address culture within the armed forces.
National broadcaster ABC has for years denounced suspected war crimes perpetrated by the Australian military in Afghanistan, prompting the police to search its offices in 2017 over the leak of the so-called “Afghan Files” on alleged abuses committed by soldiers in the South Asian country.
Australia deployed up to 1,500 soldiers for combat operations in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014, which was considered the largest military contribution of a country outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and since then it has maintained small military detachments dedicated to training local soldiers.
The investigations only span from 2005, when Australia deployed 150 members of its special forces and reinforced its military presence in Afghanistan, while in previous years its contribution was mainly logistics. EFE-EPA