Former Prime Minister John Howard said the conduct of some members of the special forces in Afghanistan was “totally at odds with the values, beliefs and practices” of the Australian military.
Mr. Howard, as Prime Minister, engaged Australian forces in Afghanistan in 2001, following the terrorist attacks of September 11.
During the conflict, 41 members of the Australian Defense Force died, for which the nation should be grateful, he said.
“None of this lessens the distress that I and so many others feel about the content of the Brereton Inquiry,” Howard said in a statement Friday.
“His findings are damning for the behavior of a small group of Special Forces members who he says are responsible, among other things, for the unlawful killing of 39 Afghan citizens.
“The report explicitly states that none of them lost their lives in the heat of battle. Such conduct is totally at odds with the values, beliefs and practices of our military forces.
He said due process must now be followed.
“If charges are brought against individuals, they should be dealt with in accordance with the Australian criminal justice system,” said Howard.
“Any accused staff member should benefit from the presumption of innocence.
“A long road awaits us. In the meantime, we must remember the continued service of our military personnel and, where appropriate, reach out to them and their families. “
The four-year investigation by Australian Defense Force Inspector General Paul Brereton found credible evidence of 23 incidents in which a total of 39 Afghan nationals were unlawfully killed.
The investigation recommended the defense chief refer 36 cases to the Australian Federal Police for criminal investigation, involving 19 people.
Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd compared the behavior to that of the torture and abuse scandal in Abu Ghraib prisons.
“This is not to say that as a result of the atrocities observed during the Iraq war at Abu Ghraib, such crimes could be repeated, and worse, by Australian forces in Afghanistan,” he said in a statement. .