6 April 2022

Australia’s Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References this week released the final report of its inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan.

The inquiry was tasked with examining Australia’s twenty-year military, diplomatic and development engagement in Afghanistan. Yet its final report studiously avoids engaging with one key issue: Australia’s obligations in response to the IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry Report and its findings of evidence of war crimes by Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan.

The Senate Committee report makes passing reference to ongoing criminal investigations but fails to examine Australia’s broader response to the Afghanistan Inquiry’s recommendations on compensation for victims and military reform. It also fails to scrutinise the impact of the closure of the Australian embassy in Kabul in May 2021 on Australia’s ability to implement these recommendations.

The Committee’s January interim report highlighted the impact of war crimes revelations on the mental health of veterans. Notably absent in the Committee’s two reports is any consideration of the impact of war crimes on victims and communities in and from Afghanistan.

The Committee’s final report focuses on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan as well as visa and settlement services for people seeking refuge in Australia. These are pressing issues that require careful attention. However, any assessment of Australia’s twenty-year engagement in Afghanistan is incomplete if it does not also consider the impact of war crimes committed during this conflict and Australia’s obligations to remedy those wrongs.

Fiona Nelson, Senior Legal Advisor at the Australian Centre for International Justice, said:

“This Senate Inquiry has failed to engage with the elephant in the room: war crimes. As such, it’s a missed opportunity to make a more meaningful contribution to the process of honestly reckoning with Australia’s Afghanistan legacy.”

Further reading


Media enquiries: Rawan Arraf, Australian Centre for International Justice: +61(0)450 708 870

Image Credit: (c) Neale Maude

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