13 Serving Defence Members to Face Administrative Action After Afghan Inquiry

By Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark
Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
November 27, 2020Updated: November 29, 2020

Thirteen serving Australian soldiers face administrative action in the fallout of the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) Afghanistan inquiry report.

Chief of the Army Lieutenant General Rick Burr announced on Friday that the ADF was considering sending the recommendations and findings from the Afghanistan Inquiry to the Office of the Special Investigator.

“Administrative action is a long-standing, well-established process within Defence that ensures the rights of individuals to due process and fair hearing,” Burr said.

Burr explained that he would oversee the army taking administrative action against 13 serving members in relation to the report’s findings as part of upholding the Army’s values and professional standards.

He explained that the process was well-known to all in the Army and stressed that everyone should respect the privacy of those who have been put on notice. Furthermore, Burr noted that no more commentary would be given until the procedural process is complete.

“This whole process will take time, and we will do this work methodically, deliberately, and in accordance with established process,” Burr said.

According to the Defence system of military justice, administrative action can take various forms ranging from counselling and formal warnings to censures or removal of command. In the case of what is construed as a severe professional failure, administrative action can result in discharge from service.

In 2018, the Australian reported that seven serving members of the First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment (1 RAR) were administratively discharged after a series of incidents, including lewd and violent text messages toward women in their regiment were investigated.

Those who are subject to an administrative notice for any judicial, disciplinary, or administrative action in the army are provided with legal, welfare, and command support and any decision-maker must consider their written response.

The notices follow Burr’s decision last week to remove the 2 Squadron from Special Air Services (SAS) regiment after they were found to be at the nexus of alleged criminal behaviour in Afghanistan.

Chief of the Defence Forces Angus Campbell said on Nov. 19 that the alleged behaviour noted by the inquiry profoundly disrespected the trust placed in Australia by Afghans and would have put in jeopardy the mission and the safety of our Afghan and coalition partners.

Campbell, who has apologised unreservedly to Afghanistan for any alleged wrongdoing, has agreed to rescind the meritorious group citation for ADF members who served in Afghanistan with the Special Operation Task Group between 2007 and 2013.

However former serving members are against the revision of the mission with former special forces commander Heston Russell saying that any sanctions on the medals need to suspended until any of the alleged charges were proven in a court of law.

Russell has started a petition to stand up for common sense and protect the memory of those who served in the conflict and stop the persecution of “the many” who served with honour, said his petition had so far garnered more than 40,000 signatures.

The Afghanistan Inquiry alleges that ADF members allegedly committed unlawful killings not in the heat of battle; or in circumstances where the perpetrator’s intent was unclear, confused or mistaken.

The report also noted that every person interviewed understood the Law of Armed Conflict and the Rules of Engagement under which their mission was conducted.