There is “credible evidence” that Australian special forces unlawfully killed 39 people during the Afghan conflict, a long-awaited report has found.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has released findings from a four-year inquiry into misconduct by its forces.
The inquiry investigated 57 incidents and heard from more than 300 witnesses.
It had uncovered a “shameful record” of a “warrior culture” by some soldiers, ADF chief General Angus Campbell said.
Nineteen current or former soldiers should be investigated by police over the killings of “prisoners, farmers or civilians” between 2009 and 2013, the report found.
Afghanistan said it had been assured by Australia that it was committed to “ensuring justice”.
What did the report find?
It said 25 serving or former soldiers had carried out crimes or been “accessories” to them. Most allegations concerned soldiers within the Special Air Service (SAS) elite unit.
Gen Campbell said none of the alleged killings could be “described as being in the heat of battle”.
“None were alleged to have occurred in circumstances in which the intent of the perpetrator was unclear, confused or mistaken,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“And every person spoken to by the inquiry thoroughly understood the law of armed conflict and the rules of engagement under which they operated.”
Gen Campbell said the most alarming allegations concerned some SAS soldiers who allegedly “took the law into their own hands”.
“The report notes that the distorted culture was embraced and amplified by some experienced, charismatic and influential non-commissioned officers and their proteges, who sought to fuse military excellence with ego, elitism and entitlement,” he said.
The inquiry – by the inspector-general of the ADF – was conducted behind closed doors, meaning few details have been reported until now.