SAS troop war crime report to be sent to PM
Exclusive: The high-stakes inquiry into the actions of Australia's Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan is complete, and the report handed to the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, on Friday.
News Corp can reveal the report, which contains findings and recommendations about incidents involving Special Forces troops between 2005 and 2016, will go to the Morrison Government within days.
Australia's military allies including the US, UK and Canada are among the nations carefully monitoring the outcome of the inquiry, which has been underway for the past four years.
NSW judge Paul Brereton has been investigating 55 incidents including war crimes and unlawful killings of non-combatants, on behalf of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force.
Australia's most decorated living soldier, Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, is among those whose actions while serving in Afghanistan are under scrutiny by Mr Brereton.
He is also under investigation by the Australian Federal Police for alleged war crimes. Mr Roberts-Smith has strongly denied any allegations of wrongdoing and is suing the Nine media group over their reports about him.
A second, unnamed soldier is also being investigated by the Australian Federal Police over the shooting of an apparently unarmed man in Afghanistan.
The IGADF report has been conducted in secret, although it's thought to have made findings about individual actions, as well as recommendations about broader issues within the Special Forces, including around culture, supervision, and oversight.
There has been discussion within the Department of Defence about the potential impact of multiple deployments on individual soldiers. Mental health support, and financial assistance for legal costs will also be provided to some soldiers and former soldiers. A number have been served with "potentially affected person (PAP)'' notices and given an opportunity to formally respond to allegations against them.
It is not yet known how much of Mr Brereton's report will be made public. It will be provided to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, and ultimately to the Federal Cabinet.
In August, Senator Reynolds warned she expected the Brereton inquiry would: "make some very significant findings, ones that I'm certain will make many Australians uncomfortable and also dismayed at. So, I think we do need to prepare ourselves for that.''
She told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute online series that the ADF had done a "significant amount of self-reflection'' since the inquiry started about how the reported circumstances had occurred and what structural and cultural changes needed to be made so that the "events do not happen again.''
Reinforcing that she had not at that stage seen the report, Senator Reynolds said: "I think we've seen enough publicly to understand what might be in there, that that in no way reflects on our current serving men and women both here and overseas who are doing an extraordinary job for our nation.''
The ADF on Friday night confirmed the report had been received.
"The independent inquiry was commissioned by Defence in 2016 after rumours and allegations emerged relating to possible breaches of the Law of Armed Conflict by members of the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan over the period 2005 to 2016,'' it said in a statement.
"The Inquiry was conducted in private because it involved matters of operational security, protected identities and the reputations of individuals which may be unfairly harmed by publication.
"The Chief of the Defence Force intends to speak about the key findings once he has considered the report.''
Originally published as SAS troop war crime report to be sent to PM