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Mandated body cameras possibly for troops following war crimes review
Mandated body cameras possibly for troops following war crimes review avatar

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Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell says special forces soldiers may have been given too many responsibilities during their deployment to Afghanistan and is flagging that troops will possibly be forced to wear cameras fitted to their equipment at all times in the future.

General Campbell said on Sunday the findings of the Brereton war crimes inquiry, released last week, was correct in its observation that special forces had been "very busy" over the past 20 years in a wide range of roles and responsibilities and operational commitments.

Australia Defence Force chief Angus Campbell says the SAS was given too many responsibilities in Afghanistan.Credit:Stephen Kiprillis

The four-year inquiry by NSW Court Of Appeal Justice Paul Brereton found there was credible evidence of 23 incidents in which one or more non-combatants – or individuals who had been captured or injured – were unlawfully killed by special forces soldiers, or at least at their direction.

There were also a further two incidents that the report said could be classified as the war crime of "cruel treatment".

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"In terms of their role in Afghanistan, there were aspects right from the start and all the way through that campaign which necessarily had to be done by special forces capability," General Campbell told ABC's Insiders.

"But there are other elements that Justice Brereton refers to that, in hindsight, perhaps we should have seen rotated to other elements of the force earlier."

The public summary of the inquiry, based partly on evidence given by eye witnesses interviewed under oath, found Australian soldiers summarily executed non-combatants and prisoners.

The Special Air Service Regiment's second squadron will be struck off the Army's order of battle and reformed and renamed.

General Campbell said he wanted the Australian Defence Force to acknowledge it was "something we've got to own".

"If we don't own it, we won't fix it and if we don't fix it, this horror may appear again and I just cannot accept that," General Campbell said.

He said he supported the review's recommendation that would mandate the wearing of bodycams for all personnel, saying it could both help advance both training and accountability.

“We will work through that recommendation. I think it is a very good idea. It creates a degree of objectivity and a capacity for learning, development and record keeping," he said.

“That material would become a digital archive, permanently and securely held so that if claims were to arise, they would be, they would contribute to understanding what may have happened.”

The federal government put in place a special investigator to oversee further investigation and prosecution of war crimes by the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Finance and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Sunday the report should "certainly not tarnish everyone" and the "vast majority" had done Australia "nothing but pride and good service".

"What it also shows, though, is that Australia is a country that owns up to problems and that has a far higher level of transparency than, perhaps, many other nations of the world," he told Sky News Australia.

"I think we can also, in our international engagement, hold our head high that where these sorts of terrible, atrocious things have occurred, Australia doesn’t shirk away from it.

"That transparency is something that not all others would apply the same standards to."

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Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra

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