The Chief of the Army has revealed 13 members of the Australian Defence Force face the prospect of being sacked following the Afghanistan war crimes inquiry.
It comes after the ABC revealed on Thursday that the Defence Force had sent “show cause” notices to members of the elite SAS.
Lieutenant General Rick Burr said the 13 soldiers had 14 days to respond to “administrative action notices” proposing to terminate their service.
“At this point in time no individuals have been separated from the Australian Defence Force,” he said.
It follows the release of a report, commissioned by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF), alleging special forces soldiers were responsible for the murder of at least 39 Afghans.
Defence sources have told the ABC the elite soldiers facing possible expulsion are members of the SAS’s disbanded 2 Squadron as well as the regiment’s 3 Squadron.
“Administrative action includes receiving a notice proposing to terminate the individual’s service,” General Burr said.
“The individual then has the opportunity to respond, within a minimum of 14 days.
“The decision maker must consider any written response that the individuals provide before making a decision. Each matter and individual circumstance will be considered on a case by case basis.”
Other special forces members may eventually be discharged or face a range of disciplinary sanctions, including formal warnings.
Defence initiated the action against serving special forces members within days of last week’s landmark Brereton war crimes report being made public.
General Burr refused to confirm if the 13 soldiers were among the 19 personnel who Justice Brereton recommended be referred to Federal Police.
Sources have told the ABC that the 13 are suspected to have been “accessories” or “witnesses” to alleged murders carried out by other special forces soldiers.
The Brereton inquiry focussed on events between 2005 and 2016 and interviewed 423 witnesses.
A special investigator has been created within the Australian Federal Police to investigate the allegations from the inquiry, and a special prosecutor has been appointed within the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to handle any court cases.
Any prosecutions of ADF personnel could take years, as some of the evidence gathered by the IGADF is not admissible in a civilian court.
Soldiers were compelled to answer questions in the internal Defence probe, going against the civil principle of the right against self-incrimination.