Aussie soldiers caught up in war crime allegations to keep honours

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CANBERRA, March 31 (Xinhua) — The chief of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has reneged on his decision to strip honours from thousands of soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

Chief of ADF Angus Campbell announced in November that 3,000 personnel would be stripped of their Meritorious Unit Citation (MUC) after special forces troops were accused of committing war crimes in Afghanistan by the Inspector-General of the ADF (IGADF).

However, it was revealed on Wednesday that Campbell has backtracked on that decision, citing a desire to avoid “negative public attention.”

Campbell was widely condemned for the decision to remove the MUC from all soldiers rather than just those accused of war crimes.

In a letter to then Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in December which was published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Wednesday, Campbell said he was wary of the political and public backlash to the decision.

“In light of public controversy regarding the revocation of the Meritorious Unit Citation, I am of the view that a slower, more deliberate approach to implementing the Inspector-General’s recommendations regarding individual honours and awards will ensure the review process is thorough considered by Defence,” he said.

The landmark report from the IGADF, which was the result of a four-year inquiry, found that there was “credible evidence” that 39 murders were allegedly committed by 19 current and former special forces soldiers in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016.

“It has to be said that what this report discloses in disgraceful and a profound betrayal of the Australian Defence Force’s professional standards and expectations,” the report said.

“The inquiry has recommended the revocation of the award of the Meritorious Unit Citation, as an effective demonstration of the collective responsibility and accountability of the Special Operations Task Group as a whole for those events.” Enditem

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