The families of Afghans unlawfully killed by Australian special forces say they want the alleged perpetrators tried in Afghanistan.
Some have also welcomed the possibility of compensation for the deaths of their family members.
“I need justice and also expect compensation for the loss and pain they have caused us,” said Abdul Latif from Sarkhume village in Uruzgan province.
“They martyred my father and destroyed our hopes.
“My father wanted us to study at school and complete our religious studies, but all his hopes were buried, and we lost all our hope.”
In response to the release of the inquiry report of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF), ABC Investigations has interviewed four family members of two men allegedly killed in cold blood by members of 3 Squadron SAS in Sarkhume in March 2012.
The killings of Haji Sardar and Mirza Khan were exposed by ABC Investigations last year, and the case was one of many investigated by the IGADF as part of its more than four-year inquiry into allegations of war crimes by the Australian special forces.
Last week, the IGADF report recommended 19 current and serving special forces soldiers be prosecuted for war crimes and compensation paid to Afghan victims and their families.
“If justice is done according to our Islamic law – because these crimes were committed in Afghanistan – these soldiers should be prosecuted according to Islamic law. If it is according to [Australian] law, they must imprison them for life,” said Abdul Latif, whose father Haji Sardar was found dead after the raid. “We want both justice and compensation.”
The report recommended that where there was “credible information” that an Afghan had been unlawfully killed, Australia should compensate the family before waiting for criminal liability to be established.
“This will be an important step in rehabilitating Australia’s international reputation, in particular with Afghanistan, and it is simply the right thing to do,” the report said.
Medic says ‘it happened’
An investigation by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) found that Haji Sardar had been taken into the village mosque and beaten to death.
The old man had earlier been treated by SAS medic Dusty Miller for a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to the leg.
After being patched up, witnesses say the Afghan was grabbed from Miller and taken into the mosque by a senior SAS operator, and his body later found by villagers who said they heard Haji Sardar crying out before he was killed.
“It’s all true. It happened. It’s factual,” said Miller of the unlawful killings of civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan.
“It’s not rumour. It’s what happened over there, something that I witnessed on a number of occasions.”
Haji Sardar’s younger son, Hazratullah, says he witnessed his father being taken from Miller and carried into the mosque. He was among the villagers who later found his body.
“This incident affected me so much, I was about 10 or 12 years of age and we remained orphans,” Hazratullah said.
“I was a child and did not know anything because my father was providing us everything … my father was responsible for all our affairs,” he said.
“My mother has mental illness. She does not speak properly to anyone. Sometimes she cries … they have made our situation very bitter.”
‘He was living his life’
The other victim of the Sarkhume raid was a young man called Mirza Khan.
The AIHRC investigation found that he was set upon and mauled by an Australian combat dog before being shot.
The AIHRC said both Mirza Khan and Haji Sardar were unarmed civilians who had been unlawfully killed by the SAS.
“Because this oppression has been done to us in Afghanistan, therefore their retribution should be done according to the Islamic law of Afghanistan,” said Shahista Khan, the brother of Mirza Khan.
“[The perpetrator] should be given capital punishment, so our hearts find peace.”
Legal experts say it is very unlikely any trials can be held outside Australia.
“The only way in which an Afghanistan prosecution could take place is if Australia waived the immunity, which is most unlikely,” said Donald Rothwell, professor of international law at ANU.
“That would then also raise legal issues with respect to extradition.”
Clutching a portrait of Mirza Khan, Miraz Gula still grieves for her son eight years after he was shot dead by the SAS.
“How is it not cruel that they came and martyred my son? He had not committed any crime and he was not on any side. He was living his normal life,” she said.
The family members of the victims of the Sarkhume raid have welcomed the IGADF’s recommendation of compensation, which Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell says will be implemented.
“They unleashed their dog on [my brother] and later shot at him from close range, and he was martyred … we want his killer to be brought to justice,” said Shahista Khan.
“They have destroyed and burned our houses; they have martyred our brother. In the face of my brother’s murder, we want the culprit, but [we also want] compensation for our property they burned.
“Nothing has been given to us, while they have inflicted financial and human losses on us and ruined us,” said Miraz Gula.
Defence has told the ABC it is “preparing a comprehensive implementation plan” to act on the Inspector-General’s recommendations, which will include providing advice to the Government on issues such as compensation.
“Final decisions on this advice will be a matter for government,” it said.
– ABC / Additional research by Muhib Habibi
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