Special Forces soldiers prepare war crime defence
A group of Special Forces soldiers issued a "show cause" notice in the wake of the Brereton report's findings will be submitting their defence on why they shouldn't be sacked from the military.
The soldiers who received the notices in November are members of the now disbanded Special Air Service Regiment's 2 Squadrons as well as the regiment's 3 Squadron suspected of being "accessories" or "witnesses" of alleged murders carried out by other SAS soldiers.
On Friday the SAS members will individually submit the written response through their lawyers, giving their version of events and justifying why they shouldn't face administrative action.
But a source close to some of the 13 elite soldiers accused of being dishonest when called to give evidence before the inquiry said the process had "taken its toll" with many members left "distraught".
"It's been heartbreaking watching them so distressed, losing weight and relationships breaking down," a source told The Daily Telegraph.
"They don't even have the camaraderie that got them through their war deployments as they've been commanded not to talk to each other.
"As proud Australians, we are all so confused by our country's actions."
A Defence spokesman said they would be considering any written response that soldiers provide as reasons why they shouldn't be terminated.
"Outcomes of each case could range from termination to no further action, based on the delegate's consideration of each individual's response," a spokesman said.
"This process takes time. Legal, welfare and command support is provided to anyone who is subject to administrative action."
He said each matter would be considered on a "case-by-case basis".
"Administrative action can include termination, censure, reduction in rank or formal counselling."
It follows the release of a report, commissioned by the Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force, alleging special forces soldiers were responsible for the murder of at least 39 Afghans.
The Brereton inquiry focused on events between 2005 and 2016 and interviewed 423 witnesses.
Other special forces members may eventually be discharged or face a range of disciplinary sanctions, including formal warnings.
A special investigator has been created within the Australian Federal Police to investigate the allegations from the inquiry, and a special prosecutor has been appointed within the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to handle any court cases.
Any prosecutions of ADF personnel could take years, as some of the evidence gathered by the IGADF is not admissible in a civilian court.
Soldiers were compelled to answer questions in the internal Defence probe, going against the civil principle of the right against self-incrimination.
Anyone who may be feeling distressed can contact the following organisations for support:
Defence all-hours support line: 1800 628 036
Defence Family Helpline: 1800 624 608
Open Arms: 1800 011 046
Originally published as 'Distressed': Special Forces soldiers prepare war crime defence