Australia – Defence comment on the Director of Military Prosecutions’s decision

On 12 February 2009, the Special Operations Task Group undertook a compound clearance in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. The matter has been investigated by the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service and was referred to the Director of Military Prosecutions for consideration of charges.

The Director of Military Prosecutions has decided that three Australian Defence Force members who continue to serve in the Army will be charged in relation to this incident.

One accused person has been charged with failing to comply with a lawful general order and, in the alternative, prejudicial conduct. A second accused person has been charged with manslaughter and, in the alternative, dangerous conduct, and an additional charge of dangerous conduct. Charges against a third member, who is currently overseas travelling in a personal capacity, will be preferred when the individual returns to Australia.

The Director of Military Prosecutions is an independent prosecutorial authority for the Australian Defence Force and was appointed as a statutory office holder under the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982.

The Director of Military Prosecutions’s decisions are made outside the chain of command in order to remove any suggestion of command influence, and are made in accordance with published guidelines for the institution of prosecutions.

The matters will be heard before one or more Service Tribunals that will be convened in due course. It is anticipated that the trial process will not commence until early 2011.

“Consistent with the presumption of innocence, these members will receive the full support of the Australian Defence Force,” the Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said.

The members will receive support services including but not limited to medical, psychological, legal, chaplaincy and welfare support.

“I give the members facing these charges a firm, personal undertaking that I will ensure that they are thoroughly supported throughout the legal process,” the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie, said.

In most circumstances Australian Defence Force members must gain permission before making public statements. In this instance, the members facing charges are permitted to make any public statements they deem necessary upon advice of their legal representatives. This permission does not extend to other members of the Australian Defence Force who might have an interest in these proceedings.

Defence will not engage in any commentary about the merits of the case.

Media contact: Defence Media Liaison: (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Press release
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,
Canberra, Australia

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