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    Australian Army soldier Sergeant Francis Jakis (L) is pictured with Indonesian Army soldiers during the Junior Officer Combat Instructor Training course conducted by the Australian Army's Combat Training Centre in Tully, Australia, October 10, 2014

    Secret Inquiry: Australia's SAS Soldiers Questioned Over Alleged War Crimes

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    Australia’s Special Air Service Regiment (SAS), the most elite unit of the country’s armed forces, is under growing scrutiny over its conduct in past military operations and conflict zones.

    In the past two weeks, over a dozen SAS soldiers have been questioned by a judge as part of an ongoing inquiry into the regiment’s alleged war crimes, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported today, citing informed military sources.

    The soldiers have been questioned by New South Wales (NSW) Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton in Perth and Sydney.

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    Authorities are yet to officially release detailed information about the investigation. However, sources in the unit who have been interviewed described the questioning as “exhausting” and claim to have been questioned for up to five hours.

    “I was blown away by the detail he [NSW Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton] had,” one of the questioned SAS soldiers told the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday.

    He went on to explain that he was interviewed about the unit’s alleged misconduct in Afghanistan, and said he supported the inquiry as it’s the only way for the regiment to move forward.

    The findings of an inquiry in 2016, which only became available to the public today, revealed that Australian military personnel, including SAS soldiers, committed war crimes during the Afghan War.

    The report also highlighted issues higher up in Australia’s special forces hierarchy, claiming there was a “complete lack of accountability” from senior officers and the “military chain of command.”

    Furthermore, this report revealed that some members of Australia’s special forces confidentially provided testimony, shedding light on “unsanctioned and illegal application of violence on operations” by their comrades which were deemed to show a “disregard for human life and dignity.”

    Only a small part of the report has been released, and the Labor Party is calling for its entire release to the public.

    “We will also be seeking, subject to national security considerations, as much of this report as possible be brought to the public domain. Information in a report as significant as this should not be coming to light via leaks to newspapers," Labor Defense Spokesperson Richard Marles said in a statement.

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    Meanwhile, Amnesty International has expressed its deep concern about both reports and said that "there are mounting questions around the ADF breaching international human rights law.”

    The Australian Ministry of Defense is yet to indicate if it will release the findings of the reports, as it continues to face growing pressure from opposition politicians and human rights groups.

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    Tags:
    human rights, war crimes, special forces, Afghanistan War, Labor Party (Australia), Australian government, SAS, Amnesty International, Richard Marles, Paul Brereton, Perth, Afghanistan, Australia, Sydney
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