21 March 2023
Joint Press Release: Human rights groups welcome the first war crimes charge relating to conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan
The Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) and the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization (AHRDO) welcome the news that investigations have progressed into allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, with the announcement of an arrest of a former member of the Australian Defence Force. The man has been charged with the war crime of murder.
Dozens of incidents have been under investigation following an Inquiry by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force which concluded in November 2020. The arrest marks the first arrest on a war crimes charge arising from those investigations.
Fiona Nelson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Australian Centre for International Justice, said:
“Near-total impunity has been a defining and devastating feature of the conflict in Afghanistan. The news that a charge has been brought in this case is an important step towards accountability.
With many more incidents under investigation – and with no progress yet made on the issue of redress – Australia still has a lot of work ahead to respond to the legacy of its military engagement in Afghanistan.”
Hadi Marifat, Executive Director at the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization, said:
“Afghan war victims have never had access to truth, accountability, and redress. They have always been ignored in transitional justice efforts in Afghanistan. Bringing war crimes charges is an important step in closing the impunity gap and presents an opportunity for the Australian authorities to ensure a victim-centred response to human rights violations.
Victims must be kept informed about the processes underway in Australia and have the opportunity to engage and participate. Their needs and interests, including reparation, must be reflected and addressed.
I hope it will also inspire other countries including the US whose soldiers have allegedly been involved in serious human rights violations in Afghanistan to step forward.”
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Image Credit: Elyas Alavi, 2022.