Australia’s wake-up call on war crimes

Execution of prisoners, a “blooding” practice where subordinates are ordered to kill out-of-action enemy combatants, a system of covering up war crimes, and “collective blindness” of the army hierarchy: the Brereton inquiry into alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan has shaken Australia. A special prosecutor will soon be appointed in Australia to handle the matter. Will the Australian military break the code of silence? Will the country decide to set up a national war crimes unit? Are there implications for other Western armies, or for the International Criminal Court? Our partners at Asymmetrical Haircuts talk to Rawan Arraf, the director of the Australian Centre for International Justice.

Australia’s wake-up call on war crimes
© Deshakalyan Chowdhury / AFP
1 minApproximate reading time

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The Australian political, military and legal establishments have been rocked this month by the publication of big investigation – known as the Brereton report – which states that Australian soldiers committed war crimes in Afghanistan. It identified 23 incidents in which 39 people were killed and another two people were subjected to cruel treatment by Australian special forces.  All of the victims were either civilians or people considered ‘hors de combat’ – for instance prisoners of war.

To explain a bit more, and especially to tell us what happens next, we contacted Rawan Arraf, Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice.

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This podcast has been published as part of a partnership between and Asymmetrical Haircuts, a podcast on international justice produced from The Hague by journalists Janet Anderson and Stephanie van den Berg, who retain full control and independence over the contents of the podcast.