An Australian Army soldier seen shooting an unarmed Afghan man in footage aired by Four Corners has been suspended from duty, with the Defence Minister referring the matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner.
The Four Corners footage showed an Afghan man named Dad Mohammad being shot and killed at close range by an Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) soldier in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan.
A Defence investigation of the 2012 incident found the SAS soldier, called Soldier C in reporting, acted in self-defence.
The Department of Defence has issued a statement saying the revelations are “serious and disturbing”.
The statement says the Australian Defence Force conducts its operations under “strict rules of engagement and promotes a culture of ethical and lawful behaviour”.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds also issued a statement.
“I have today made a formal referral to the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police regarding the incident involving the alleged serious criminal conduct of so-called Soldier C,” Senator Reynolds said.
Killing ‘would be a simple case of a murder’
The special forces deployments in Afghanistan have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.
Retired Admiral Chris Barrie, who served as chief of the Defence Force from 1998 to 2002, told the ABC he was “shocked” watching the footage on Four Corners.
Mr Barrie was not familiar with the incident and said he could only comment on what he saw on the program.
“The man was not armed, the man was in a docile situation, and he was shot,” Mr Barrie said.
“Which, if this was to happen on the streets in Australia, would be a simple case of murder.”
Afghanistan’s embassy issued a statement earlier in the week saying they were “deeply saddened” by incidents on the Four Corners program.
“The Embassy calls for a complete, impartial and timely investigation of these allegations and trusts the Australian judicial system in this regard,” the embassy said.
“The assassination of civilians and non-combatants, including innocent women and children, is totally unjustifiable in accordance with international law, the domestic laws of both these countries who share a friendly relationship, as well as the laws and regulations of any other peace-loving nations.
“Hence, if proven, the Embassy calls for the unconditional prosecution of the perpetrators.”
The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force has been investigating the conduct of the special forces in Afghanistan in a wide-ranging inquiry.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister described the vision as “shocking and alarming”.
“This issue is rightly under investigation by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force who is examining the conduct of Australia’s Special Forces in Afghanistan over the period 2005 to 2016.
“I understand that the findings of this inquiry will soon be provided to the Chief of the Defence Force. I expect that these findings will be acted on fully and promptly.”