SAS soldiers given 'show cause' notices over war crimes allegations
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SAS soldiers given 'show cause' notices over war crimes allegations

Defence has begun sending "show cause" notices to members of the elite special forces regiment that was subject to the Afghanistan war crimes inquiry, paving the way for them to be kicked out of the military.

The soldiers who have received the notices are members of the Special Air Service Regiment's second and third squadrons suspected of being "accessories" or "witnesses" of alleged murders carried out by other SAS soldiers.

A number of serving SAS soldiers have been sent "show cause" notices, paving the way for them to be kicked out of the military.

A number of serving SAS soldiers have been sent "show cause" notices, paving the way for them to be kicked out of the military.Credit:Australian Defence Force

Senior military sources have told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that two soldiers were sacked immediately after the release of the Inspector-General's inquiry report last week. They are understood to be witnesses to the killing of a young Afghan man in a field, which was featured on the ABC's Four Corners earlier this year. The Australian Defence Force is concerned about the bystander factor, which leads some witnesses to alleged crimes to not report them.

The sources also said that a number of the "show cause" notices issued this week were to soldiers who were found to be dishonest when called to give evidence before the inquiry.

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A four-year inquiry, led by Justice Paul Brereton for the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, found Australian special forces soldiers allegedly committed 39 murders in Afghanistan, and 19 serving or former soldiers will face possible prosecution and the stripping of their medals.

The ABC reported at least 10 current members of the SAS implicated in the damning report have received show cause notices from the Defence Department.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age has confirmed with Defence sources that SAS members began receiving the notices this week, asking them to show cause why they shouldn't be sacked.

A Defence spokeswoman confirmed it had initiated "administrative action against a number of serving Australian Defence Force personnel in accordance with legislation and Defence policy".

"At this point in time, no individuals have been separated from the Australian Defence Force," the Defence spokeswoman said.

She said each matter would be considered on a "case-by-case basis" and Defence would consider any written response that soldiers provide as reasons why they shouldn't be terminated.

"Administrative action is a longstanding well established process within Defence that ensures the rights of individuals to due process and fair hearing are protected.

"Administrative action includes receiving a notice proposing to terminate the individual’s service. The notice allows the individual an opportunity to respond within a minimum of 14 days."

"It is essential that procedural fairness is followed, and that no further comment be made until the process is complete."

Liberal senator Jim Molan, a former major general who served in Iraq, said in an email to Liberal Party members there was "much to be done" in the wake of the Brereton report's findings.

"Let's look after the wellbeing of all of those involved and their families, and I can vouch for the impact on self and family of being accused of such crimes," he said.

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"Let's guard the reputation of the military in this country because they deserve our support and we need our military to be strong and effective in these very uncertain times. Let's also support the process to now take its course and have confidence in our legal system.

"The presumption of innocence is critical as is the support of those involved."

The public summary of the Brereton inquiry, released last week, found that Australian soldiers summarily executed non-combatants and prisoners.

The report was scathing of patrol commanders of the Special Operations Task Group, who are senior soldiers that lead small teams of four to five men and whom Justice Brereton blamed for the worst alleged war crimes.

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When releasing the report, ADF Chief Angus Campbell said individual members of the military would face disciplinary action.

General Campbell also said he would write to the Governor-General requesting he revoke the meritorious unit citation for the entire Special Operations Task Group between 2007 and 2013.

He said decisions on cancelling individual medals would be made on a case-by-case basis.

The Special Air Service Regiment's second squadron — which was subject to the majority of allegations — is also being disbanded.

If you are a current or former ADF member, or a relative, and need counselling or support, contact the Defence All-Hours Support Line on 1800 628 036 or Open Arms on 1800 011 046.

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