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Australia Australian Defence Force orders ban on destruction of evidence from Afghanistan war, as inquiry into alleged war crimes nears end

23:05  15 october  2020
23:05  15 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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The Australian Defence Force orders a halt on the destruction of any records relating to Australia 's two-decade war in Afghanistan , more than four years after an The direction comes at the behest of the Afghanistan Inquiry Task Force , as an inquiry into allegations of war crimes nears its end .

ABC Investigations understands that — as part of its inquiry into alleged special forces war crimes in Afghanistan — the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) is investigating the Australian Defence Force orders ban on destruction of evidence from war in Afghanistan .

a man standing in front of a sunset: An inquiry into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces is in its final stages. (SuppliedADF) © Provided by ABC NEWS An inquiry into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces is in its final stages. (SuppliedADF)

The Australian Defence Force has ordered a halt on the destruction of any records relating to Australia's two-decade-long war in Afghanistan, more than four years after an inquiry commenced into allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces.

The ABC has obtained an internal Defence bulletin sent last week that places an embargo on the shredding of any records relating to ADF operations in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2015.

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The bulletin states the embargo is at the direction of the "Afghanistan Inquiry Task Force".

When asked about the nature of the task force, the existence of which has not been disclosed before now, Defence responded:

"The Afghanistan Inquiry Task Force is a small temporary team established within the Australian Defence Force Headquarters. Its primary role is to prepare Defence to receive and respond to the IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry report."

The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) has been conducting a wide-ranging but highly secretive inquiry into allegations that Australian special forces committed war crimes — including the murder of civilians — in Afghanistan since early 2016.

The report, compiled by NSW Supreme Court judge and Army Reserve Major General Paul Brereton, is expected to be completed before the end of the year and is widely expected to shine a light on a number of allegedly unlawful killings by Australian SAS troopers and commandos.

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Key points The investigator will look into criminal matters raised by an inquiry into alleged war crimes A report on alleged unlawful killings by soldiers in Afghanistan has been handed to the Government "The Office of the Special Investigator will address the criminal matters made in the Inspector

Dozens of allegations of war crimes have been investigated by the probe. Given the severity of the alleged crimes , and the publicity surrounding the IGADF’s inquiry , the prospect of criminal The inquiry into allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan has been running for four years. Witnesses in Afghanistan interviewed over alleged Australian war crimes . Defence insists it is looking after

Over the last three years, the ABC has reported on a number of incidents in which Australian special forces soldiers allegedly committed war crimes by killing unarmed civilians in Afghanistan.

Some incidents have already been referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) for investigation and possible prosecution.

After a Four Corners program aired in March showed the killing of an unarmed Afghan man by an SAS soldier, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds quickly referred the incident to the AFP and the soldier was suspended from duty.

Defence records relating to those incidents would potentially be crucial for any police investigation into alleged war crimes.

Those materials could include helmet-cam vision taken on operations, photographs, patrol reports, inquiry reports, drone vision and post-operation debriefs.

When the ABC asked Defence why it had waited four years since the commencement of the IGADF inquiry before ordering a halt to any disposal of relevant records, it replied that the embargo was standard procedure.

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A landmark inquiry into Australian special forces in Afghanistan finds evidence of the "murder" of 39 prisoners, farmers or other civilians and Even before these matters end up in court, the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) believes the Federal Government should pay

This is a community run by veterans for Australian Defence Force members past and present, as well as civilians, to freely discuss any and all matters Army, Navy Australian Defence Force orders ban on destruction of evidence from Afghanistan war , as inquiry into alleged war crimes nears end .

"In accordance with these requirements, key operational records relating to planning and conduct become eligible for destruction after 20 years," a Defence spokesperson said.

"As we approach 20 years since Australia commenced operations in Afghanistan, it is the appropriate time to implement an embargo to ensure these records are preserved.

"As required, Defence will apply an embargo to similar operational activities when they approach record management milestones."

The Australian Federal Police declined to comment, referring the ABC to the Defence Department.

The ABC has also learned that the IGADF inquiry has subpoenaed records from the Australian War Memorial (AWM) as part of its investigation into alleged war crimes.

When asked whether it would comment on the subpoena, the war memorial said: "It is not the Australian War Memorial's place to discuss matters before the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force."

Director for the Australian Centre for International Justice, Rawan Arraf, said the timing of the embargo on the destruction of records was concerning.

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"It really does raise serious questions about whether the Defence Department has had the proper processes in place; whether it has been complying with its regulations and international guidelines on record keeping and data protection, especially where it's relevant to investigating any potential violations of international humanitarian law or the laws of armed conflict."

Ms Arraf said it was crucial that any material that could be used in potential future trials arising from the inquiry is preserved.

"It's relevant to ensuring that the records of incidents are properly recorded and protected, so that if any of these incidents actually reveal the commission of crimes, the evidence is properly stored and protected to be used in criminal prosecutions, so that it can withstand the rules and procedure of evidence in trials," she said.

"If it hasn't been properly protected, that might impact on future prosecutions, or whether there are any criminal proceedings at all if there is an absence of records, meaning impunity is further entrenched."

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This is interesting!