Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell says mandatory helmet cameras for special forces a ‘good idea’
Special forces soldiers could be required to wear body or helmet-mounted cameras in future operations, following shocking allegations of war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
- General Angus Campbell says cameras “would be a powerful assurance of the lawful and appropriate use of force”
- The Brereton report noted helmet cameras could ensure soldiers obeyed the law
- General Campbell says the ADF must shoulder the blame for the heavy reliance on special forces in in Afghanistan
A report released this week found evidence special forces soldiers murdered at least 39 Afghan civilians or prisoners, and recommended 19 current and former personnel be investigated for potential prosecution for war crimes.
The heavily redacted report, completed by New South Wales Justice Paul Brereton, was handed down on Thursday after a four-year inquiry into the conduct of Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel in Afghanistan.
As well as detaining the actions of some soldiers, predominantly within the Special Air Service (SAS), the Brereton report made a range of recommendations and observations about the ADF’s operations.
They include making helmet or body-mounted cameras mandatory for special forces — both SAS troops and commandos — for future operations.
“Use of official helmet cameras by SF [special forces] operators, perhaps more than any other single measure, would be a powerful assurance of the lawful and appropriate use of force on operations,” Justice Brereton wrote in his report.
“Privately owned helmet cameras were enthusiastically used in Afghanistan by some … which has albeit unintentionally resulted in the exposure of at least one apparent war crime.
GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING: THE FOLLOWING FOOTAGE CONTAINS CONFRONTING VIDEO, INCLUDING FOOTAGE OF A SHOOTING, WHICH MAY DISTRESS SOME READERS.
Speaking on the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday morning, Defence Force chief General Angus Campbell said mandatory use of helmet cameras was being considered, describing it as “a very good idea”.
“That material would then become a digital archive, permanently and securely held, so that if claims were to arise they would be able to contribute to understanding what may have happened.”
Number and frequency of tours by special forces to be examined
The inquiry also noted the heavy reliance on special forces throughout the long-running conflict in Afghanistan.
It recommended special forces “not be treated as the default ‘force of first choice’ for expeditionary deployments” and suggested a review of “dwell times” — the time between deployments for soldiers.
General Campbell said, with hindsight, the load on special forces soldiers could have been lessened.
“There were aspects right from the start and all the way through that campaign that necessarily had to be done by special forces capability,” he said.
He said the Federal Government was not to blame for the heavy reliance on special forces for operations in Afghanistan.
“The ADF planned operations, the ADF conducted operations and the ADF provided advice to government on operations,” he said.
“I want the ADF to acknowledge that this is something we’ve got to own, because 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.”