The Australian Federal Police and the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) Monday stated that a member of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) had been arrested and charged for war crimes committed in Afghanistan. The man was not identified by the joint media release, however, he was later identified as Oliver Schulz by the ABC program Four Corners. Schulz is to be charged under 268.70(1) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) with one count of “War Crime – Murder.”
This is the first charge of this kind laid against a member of the ADF and is the result of an ongoing investigation into alleged breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict between 2005 and 2016 in Afghanistan. Allegations were first raised in 2016 and led to the creation of the Afghanistan Inquiry, which handed down the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force Afghanistan Inquiry report (the Brereton Report) in 2020. The Brereton Report substantiated the allegations and the OSI was formed to investigate specific instances and allegations.
A key finding of the Brereton Report was that “none of the alleged unlawful killings were described as being in the heat of battle. None were alleged to have occurred in circumstances in which the intent of the perpetrator was unclear, confused or mistaken.” 39 Afghan people were allegedly killed unlawfully by members of the ADF. In a press conference in 2020, Chief of the Defence Force General Campbell stated “the unlawful killing, of civilians and prisoners is never acceptable.”
Executive Director at the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization Hadi Marifat welcomed the charges, expressing hopes that this step “will also inspire other countries including the US whose soldiers have allegedly been involved in serious human rights violations in Afghanistan to step forward.”
Schulz will appear in Downing Centre Local Court in the coming months to face the charges.