SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC RN DRIVE
THURSDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: IGADF Afghanistan Inquiry.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Returning to our top story and there's widespread shock and dismay at the scale of alleged war crimes revealed by the Inspector-General Paul Brereton’s report. 25 current or former soldiers have been identified as perpetrators or accessories to the killing of Afghan prisoners and civilians. Mark Dreyfus QC is the Shadow Attorney-General. Welcome.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good to be with you Patricia.
KARVELAS: Are you shocked by the scale of the allegations of war crimes against Australian soldiers in Afghanistan?
DREYFUS: Of course I'm shocked and I think everybody who saw the press conference conducted by the Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Campbell, anyone who's read the various accounts that have been running in the media today, would also be shocked. It is just the sheer scale of killings that occurred, the scale of the referrals to the Australian Federal Police. That tells us that there is a huge problem.
KARVELAS: o you believe that senior officers who failed to properly investigate these crimes should also face charges?
DREYFUS: Well, that's one of the things that the report deals with. It deals with the culture that seems to have grown up in the Special Air Services Regiment, in the Commandos, where senior officers simply were not told, where command back in Australia were receiving, at times, false reports and certainly reports that did not explain the stress that our forces in Afghanistan were enduring and didn't tell the truth about a range of operations and a range of events.
KARVELAS: From a legal perspective how difficult will it be to achieve convictions?
DREYFUS: It's really important to stress that this inquiry, a lengthy inquiry over four years, was not a criminal trial. It's made findings that there's credible information sufficient to refer to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation - some 36 matters relating to 23 incidents and 19 individuals who are being referred. And now, the Australian Federal Police, and with increased resources including an Office of a Special Investigator, are going to have to collect admissible evidence and decide, working with the Director of Public Prosecutions, whether or not any of those 19 individuals can be charged. It's going to be difficult. Some of these events occurred a long time ago. All of them occurred in a foreign country. Many of the witnesses will be people who don't speak English, although of course some of the witnesses will be members of our Defence Forces.
KARVELAS: So, going to that very point, and from a legal perspective, it'll be very difficult to achieve convictions then?
DREYFUS: I have not read the Part Two of the report because it wasn't released. I have had briefings from Justice Brereton as this inquiry has proceeded. And there is a difference between making a finding that there is credible information and getting together enough admissible evidence to charge. But I'm not going to comment on exactly how difficult – and each case is going to be different. In some cases it's apparent that there is helmet camera footage and in those cases it might be that it's going to be easier to put together a case sufficient to charge with. In other cases where it's simply people's memories, that's always difficult.
KARVELAS: Do these revelations warrant a bigger national conversation about the character of our armed forces?
DREYFUS: I think it's a conversation we should always have. But can I say one thing a little bit positive? I do take comfort from the fact that we have had this investigation, that there is a set of recommendations referring these matters to the civilian criminal justice system. We can take heart that we live in a country which respects the rule of law. It's part of our strength as a nation, our strength as a democracy and I'm hopeful that this will now lead to the full investigation that Australians expect. Of course, we should talk about the standards of our Defence Forces. They act in our name. They wear our flag. And we go back to the start of this conversation Patricia, these are shocking revelations in this report.
KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus, thank you so much for joining us.
DREYFUS: Thanks very much, Patricia.