3 July 2020

The Australian Centre for International Justice has condemned the referral, by the Australian Federal Police, of a brief of evidence to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), to consider laying charges against journalist Dan Oakes, for his reporting of allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.

Principal Lawyer and Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, Ms Rawan Arraf said:

“Dan Oaks and Sam Clarke brought us stories about horrific crimes being committed in our name in Afghanistan, a country afflicted by decades of war and extreme poverty. These stories were called ‘The Afghan Files’.

“They brought to the public’s attention allegations of grave crimes and violations of the laws of armed conflict in places such as Kandahar and Uruzgan. Unlawful killings against unarmed men and children, in one instance a father, Bismallah Jan, and his son, Sadiqallah, sleeping side by side. Detainees who were murdered, deceased fighters whose hands were severed, the crime of maiming, both of these violations of the laws of armed conflict and serious crimes under Australian law.

“The Afghan Files also revealed many instances of cover ups at the scene of the crimes and poor investigations, which only entrenched a culture of impunity. Families of the victims and communities were devastated. They demand justice and accountability, but so far have received none. These crimes also left Australian soldiers who witnessed these incidents torn by guilt and trauma.

“These vital stories is journalism in the public interest. Australians have a right to know what is being done in our name.

“Investigative efforts should be spent on investigating the allegations of the serious war crimes, not on journalists who report in the public interest.

“It is remarkable that no one has yet been referred to the CDPP for charges of war crimes.

“We call on the Attorney-General to refuse to give consent to any prosecution against Dan Oakes.

“The Afghan Files, together with brave soldiers who came forward to give testimony, meant the public was made aware of an accountability process that is almost complete. NSW Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton has been assisting the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force in an inquiry into these allegations. We know that there are over 55 separate incidents of alleged war crimes that are being investigated. The impact of The Afghan Files forced a public accounting and demands for criminal investigations that were lacking. It is likely that many will be referred for criminal investigation to the Australian Federal Police.

“We call on the Government to release to the public, the findings of the Brereton Inquiry as soon as it is available. All allegations of crimes must be genuinely investigated and prosecuted, or Australian nationals will risk facing the ICC in The Hague.”

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For media enquiries contact Rawan Arraf on 0450 708 870.

Image Credit: Australian War Memorial