Contributed by Ben Wilson
The failure of Ben Roberts-smith to win his defamation case is making big news. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is about, Roberts-Smith is the alleged bully and murderer behind the execution unarmed civilians, while serving in Australia’s armed forces on Afghanistan.
He murders were made pubic by an investigation reported by three newspapers – the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age, and the Canberra Times in 2018. Ben Roberts-Smith sued, and the 100 day case ended yesterday (1 June 2023). The judgement went against him.
Roberts-Smith was an officer in the Special Air Service (SAS).
Justice Anthony Besanko found that on a mission to the southern Afghan village of Darwan in 2012, he marched a handcuffed man named Ali Jan to stand above a 10-metre-high cliff that dropped down to a dry riverbed below. The court heard that Roberts-Smith then “walked forward and kicked the individual in the chest,” and then ordered a subordinate soldier to shoot the man dead.
Photo from the Department of Defence: Australian troops on an operation near Darwan
Another allegation was that on another mission an elderly man and second and younger man with a prosthetic leg, were executed.
It was ruled that on the probability of balance, based on the evidence, the newspapers had established the truth.
There are allegations of further murders and multiple assaults.
An immediate fallout has been the calls to have his uniform removed from the Australian War Memorial. It is there because Ben Roberts-Smith is Australia’s highest decorated war veteran.
There is no sign yet however, that he is going to be charged and made to face court for murder or anything else. There is not even the promise of a proper investigation. It adds to years of cover up by the military authorities.
Release of the Brereton report in 2020, which found credible evidence that implicated 25 current or former special forces personnel in the alleged unlawful killing of 39 individuals and the cruel treatment of two others made no difference. Only one went t trial and was convicted.
This is more than about one man.
Contrast this conspiracy to sweep serious this under the carpet with the treatment of David MacBride, a soldier who spoke out about these sorts of crimes in Afghanistan. He was quickly charged, put through a long court process, and faces the possibility of many years of imprisonment.
Such a double standard is disturbing, for it indicates that those not in the field, but the powerful people who make the decisions, both in the Australian Defence Force and in government are implicated and responsible for the alleged crimes of Australia’s military presence in Afghanistan. This is what they want to hide.
Even more reason why it is so important for the matter to be kept in the public eye, and for proper legal process to take place. Guilty soldiers should pay the price. So should those responsible for putting these soldiers in a position to commit atrocities and continue to encourage this sort of behaviour.
Th families of the murdered and their nation have a right to see justice being done.
Hopefully, the Albanese government will listen, break from the past, and act on this.