A special investigator will be appointed to prosecute alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday.
The announcement comes ahead of next week’s long-awaited release of a report into the conduct of Australian soldiers from 2005 to 2016 during the Afghanistan conflict, which Morrison said will have “difficult and hard news for Australians.”
“There is a significant number of incidents or issues to be investigated further and that investigation will be inherently complex,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“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.” he added.
Since 2016, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force has been examining allegations of unlawful killings and possible breaches of the law of armed conflict in Afghanistan.
Morrison said he was handed the findings last Friday. A redacted version of the report will be released next week.
“It is going to be very difficult for our serving community and our veterans community,” Morrison said. “It is going to be difficult for all of us.”
An oversight panel will also be set up to ensure the report’s recommendations are implemented.
“We need to deal with this as Australians, according to our own laws, through our own justice processes and we will,” Morrison said.
At least 55 separate incidents are being investigated as part of the inspector-general’s probe and more than 330 witnesses have been interviewed, it was revealed earlier this year.