Australian Federal Police are to fly to Afghanistan to investigate alleged war crimes involving Australian soldiers.
The specific incidents involved hand cuffing farmer Ali Jan, beating him, throwing him off a retaining wall, and then shooting the badly injured man in the head. Another two villagers were taken into a storeroom, where they were executed.
This allegedly took place at a smal village called Darwan in Uzurgan province.
The investigation has come about for two very good reasons. The Afghan government wants the matter cleared up. It is helping with the investigation. Undoubtedly, contributing factor has been that the incidents had been made public by the ABC in June last year.
It turns out that the raid on the public broadcaster by the Federal Police was for reporting this.
These incidents are said to have occurred on 12 September 2012, after an Afghan soldier killed three Australian soldiers at a patrol base.
It is alleged that after this other Australian soldiers entered the village for retribution.
This story of the killings was relayed by villagers to an ABC journalist.
They said that the victims were unarmed.
The Australian army reported this as having killed Taliban soldiers. It begs the question, whether this was an exception or once a common response.
If the evidence shows that these incidents did take place, they amount to a war crime and should be treated as such. It will also warrant investigation of other allegations that have been made, and to uncover whether there have been other similar incidents.
Being in a theatre of war does not excuse atrocities, especially when they are committed on no combatants.
Although soldiers are responsible for the actions, an this was ratified at the Nuremberg trials after World War Two, crimes are far more likely to occur from a nation invading a foreign territory. The distinction between combatants and civilians may not always be easy to make.
The incursion into Afghanistan was made to topple a government because of political differences and nothing more. It was not a rescue mission, but an unfounded allegation that the Taliban were behind al-Qaeda.
A parliamentary inquiry into the press freedom in Australia is keeping the issue alive. Not only in terms of allegations of wrongdoing in Afghanistan. A spotlight has been put on the spying on of journalists, under the claim that it is necessary for “security reasons.”
The Afghan incidents and associated raid on the ABC do not back up the claim. Nor does the other raid that took place at the same time. This is the one on the home of journalist Anika Smethurst, for reporting on ASIO’s plan to extend its spying on Australian citizens.
The more that comes out, the clearer is the pattern of a progressive curtailment of the freedom to report on matter that might be award for the government. This would not occur if there was noting to cover up and there isn’t fear over how the Australian public might react if they hear about it.
Hiding behind the claim that news comes from unauthorised leaks, is no justification for suppressing it. How else is wrongdoing to be uncovered? It is not likely that those who are guilty are going to tell the story. This the reason why we need whistelblowers and journalists who report what they say.
It is because of this, that the families of those who died at Darwan may have a chance to see justice be done, if it is true that they died because war crime had been committed.