Don't take our medals: War veterans launch petition after Afghanistan enquiry

Don't take our medals: War veterans launch petition after Afghanistan enquiry

A former Special Forces officer says the decision to strip diggers of their medals after last week’s damning report on alleged war crimes in Afghanistan would risk punishing thousands of veterans without conviction.

A four-year investigation by Justice Paul Brereton found there was credible evidence of 23 incidents in which 39 Afghan nationals were unlawfully killed, mostly between 2009 and 2013.

As a result, Australian Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell said: “I have accepted the Inspector General’s recommendation and will write to the Governor-General, requesting he revoke the meritious unit citation.”

This would result in over 3000 veterans who served in the Special Operations Task Force between 2007 and 2013 having their medals stripped.

Heston Russell, a former Major in the 2nd Commando Regiment, said the move would punish many for the alleged crimes of a few.

“He’s decided to reprimand and punish over 3000 people including 20 fallen heroes before any proof has been provided of the criminal allegations,” he told Sunrise.

Russell said the decision had “dug up” the “pain and agony” for veterans and the families of those who died in combat.

“As a veteran community we feel like we are under attack, you know, painted with this brush of being convicted without any trial.”

Russell is asking Australians to “show your support for common sense and help us stop this persecution of ‘the many’ who served with honour” by singing the petition on the Voice Of A Veteran website.

“The response from the Australian public has been absolutely incredible.”

“I’ve been dumbfounded at just how much support there is out there and it’s great to see commonsense coming through,” he said.

The Governor-General has the power to reject the request made by the Chief of the Defence Force, but that is extremely rare.