Thirteen people have been issued with administrative action notices following the release of the report into alleged war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.
At a press conference on Friday — one week after the Afghanistan inquiry report was released — Army chief Lieutenant General Rick Burr said no individuals have been terminated from the Australian Defence Force.
However, 13 individuals have received a notice proposing termination of their service. The recipients have the opportunity to respond to their notice and their responses must be considered before a decision is made, Burr noted.
“Each matter and individual circumstance will be considered on a case-by-case basis. It is essential that privacy be respected and that procedural fairness is followed and that no further comment be made until the process is complete,” he said.
“It is critical that for any judicial disciplinary or administrative action due procedural process must occur. I want to stress the importance of acknowledging and respecting the privacy of individuals and enabling due process to take its course.
“Legal welfare and command support is provided to anyone who is subject to administrative action. This whole process will take time and we will do this work methodically, deliberately and in accordance with established process.”
The inquiry alleged that 25 Australian Special Forces personnel, predominantly from the Special Air Service Regiment, murdered 39 people in Afghanistan, including prisoners, farmers and other civilians.
The inquiry heard that some members of the Special Operations Task Group planted weapons or equipment on bodies “for the purposes of site exploitation photography”, and that young soldiers were instructed to shoot a prisoner in order to achieve their first kill in a practice known as blooding.
Burr said the army is committed to learning from the inquiry and emerging from it as a stronger, more capable, and effective army. He said all 143 report recommendations have been accepted and defence is currently developing an implementation plan.
In a speech to Defence’s Senior Leaders Group at the launch of the new Defence Transformation Strategy on Friday, defence minister Linda Reynolds briefly acknowledged the inquiry findings.
“This has been a very, very difficult few weeks for the ADF, but also for defence, and the broader defence and veteran communities. And there are still some very challenging times ahead for us all,” she said.
“I don’t wish to say anything more about it here this morning, other than to reinforce a simple message: A strong and resilient defence organisation can, and it will continue to deal with big challenges and be better for it.”