Kabul embassy should reopen in light of new details on alleged war crime, senator says

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday June 10, 2021

Afghan security personnel checks a gun at a checkpoint around the Green Zone, which houses embassies, in Kabul. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

The federal government’s decision to close the Australian Embassy in Kabul will disadvantage the victims of war crimes and their families, Greens senator Jordon Steele-John has warned.

The senator’s call for the government to reverse its decision — announced last month — follows an ABC investigation that revealed details of the single deadliest alleged atrocity committed by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. The alleged war crime, known as the ‘tractor job’, reportedly led to the deaths of 13 people.

In a statement on Wednesday, Steele-John said that, in light of the ‘horrific and truly shameful’ revelations, Australia must reopen the embassy.

“Now is not the time for Australia to lose a vital piece of on-the-ground infrastructure that would be critical in supporting the Office of the Special Investigator to better access evidence and witnesses in Afghanistan,” he said.

“To close the Australian Embassy in Kabul now, when so much new and truly shameful information about the conduct of Australian SAS soldiers in Afghanistan has come to light, borders on governmental obstruction of justice!

“The closure of the Australian Embassy in Kabul will unjustifiably disadvantage the victims, and their families, when engaging with the investigation.”

READ MORE: Special forces soldiers murdered 39 civilians, Afghanistan war crimes report alleges

Last year an inquiry alleged that Australian Special Forces personnel murdered at least 39 prisoners, farmers and other civilians while in Afghanistan. The Office of the Special Investigator was established to investigate the alleged atrocities.

Australia must do all it can to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice and to compensate those who have been affected by Australia’s occupation in Afghanistan, Steele-John said.

“The war has had a terrible and lasting impact on the Afghani people, whose country we occupied for two decades. Innocent people, including children like 14 year old Abdul Salim who is alleged to have been killed at Sara Aw, are dead, families have been torn apart and villages have been left in ruin,” he said.

“Abdul Salim, Fiz Mohammad, Omar Jan, Mohammad Azim, Sakhi Jan, Wali Jan, Gulab Khan, Gran, Abdullah, Toor Jan and Nazar Mohammad. These are the names of the 11 civilians alleged to have been murdered; lest we forget.”

READ MORE: Dutton blocks move to strip honours of soldiers who served in Afghanistan


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