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Lawyers slam attack on military justice
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Lawyers slam attack on military justice

The legal profession has denounced a perceived attack on military justice, saying politicians and other parties should allow the independent prosecutorial process to follow its course.

 


The comments, from the Law Council of Australia, come after Opposition leader Tony Abbott accused the government of stabbing three Australian soldiers facing charges, including manslaughter, in the back. 


The three elite Australian soldiers were charged in September over a firefight in Afghanistan, in early 2009, that left five children dead. 


One solider has been charged with manslaughter and two face lesser charges, including a failure to follow orders and dangerous conduct


Abbott, meanwhile, insists he has not criticised the military justice system. He has been questioned over his claims that “it’s really the government’s job to defend the [military justice] system”, for the implication that it needed defending.


Abbott has also be questioned over his decision not to respond to claims made by Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones about the “so-called” independence of the Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP), Brigadier McDade. 


The Law Council, meanwhile, spoke out yesterday about the importance of the the independence of military justice. 


President elect of the Law Council, Alexander Ward, said the DMP has been appointed to carry out her functions independent of both the chain of command and the government. 


“It is not appropriate for anyone to seek to influence the process or undermine the important role of that Office,” Ward said. 

A Senate review of the military justice system has concluded in the past that an independent prosecutor is necessary to ensure procedural fairness to ADF members. 


“It would not be in the interests of the armed forced to return to a prosecutorial system fraught with influence from the chain of command,” he said. 


The Law Council said it urges parties to allow the DMP to perform her statutory functions without further interference and to allow justice to take its course, Ward said. 


Some media reports have also noted the strategic dimension to the DMP’s decision. American commanders this year told the US Senate that rules to protect civilians must be upheld because the attitudes of the Afghan people will be ''strategically decisive''.


As former US defence lawyer, Major General Charles Dunlap, said after the charges were issued last month: “You don't have respect for a military force that has no rules and holds no one accountable.”


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