Newly appointed defence minister Peter Dutton has confirmed that roughly 3000 soldiers will not be stripped of their military honours, in rejection of a recommendation made by the Afghanistan inquiry report.
Last year an inquiry into war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan alleged that Australian Special Forces personnel murdered at least 39 prisoners, farmers and other civilians.
Among the 143 recommendations detailed in its report, the inquiry had called for the Meritorious Unit Citation given to the Special Operations Task Group to be revoked.
Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell had initially announced that he had agreed to the recommendation, and would ask governor-general David Hurley to strip the medals of those Special Operations Task Group personnel serving in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.
Dutton, who took on the defence portfolio last month, on Monday told 2GB that only those personnel who are proven to have committed war crimes would be stripped of the citation, and avoided any criticism of Campbell’s response to the Afghanistan report.
“There’s not a finer soldier in the country than Angus Campbell,” he said.
“But he was shocked like everybody else at the serious allegations that were being made in relation to some people, and we’ve now set up an Office of [the] Special Investigator and those individuals will be investigated by that office.
“But my judgment was that we shouldn’t be punishing the 99% for the sins of the 1%.”
The establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator was announced in November, a week ahead of the release of the inquiry report.