Australian Lawyers for Human Rights has spoken out against the alleged killings of Afghan civilians by members of the Australian Defence Force.
The allegations were brought to light earlier this week when the ABC revealed that it had received hundreds of pages of leaked documents detailing incidents where Defence Force members killed unarmed Afghan men and children.
The ABC said some of the cases are being investigated as possible unlawful killings. One document also refers to ingrained cultural issues within the Defence Force.
Hector Sharp, a spokesperson for ALHR, said the allegations could constitute serious breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL).
“The reports published yesterday by the ABC are deeply shocking,” he said.
“Allegations that reckless and negligent behaviour of Australian soldiers has caused the deaths of large numbers of innocent civilians are extremely serious and, if proven, would constitute grave breaches of IHL.”
ALHR said it was particularly concerned by the reported circumstances surrounding the shooting of Afghan teenager Khan Mohammed in 2012. It urged the Australian Federal Police and the Inspector-General of the ADF to thoroughly investigate the incidents reported by the ABC.
ALHR also underscored the absolute nature of the principles of IHL.
“At the heart of IHL is the principle of distinction, which requires civilians and civilian objects to be distinguished from military targets,” the organisation said.
“There is no ‘flexible’ approach to the application of key IHL principles. The use of force is unlawful if directed specifically against civilians, employed indiscriminately without distinction between civilians and military targets, or targeted at military targets but causing disproportionate civilian casualties.
“Intentionally directing attacks against civilians may constitute a war crime.”