Decorated Australian soldier loses defamation case over struggle crime allegations

In a historic ruling, an Australian decide has determined that embellished soldier Ben Roberts-Smith lost a defamation case towards three newspapers that accused him of committing war crimes in Afghanistan. The judge discovered the allegations against the previous soldier to be “substantially true,” marking the primary time an Australian courtroom has evaluated accusations of war crimes dedicated by the country’s forces.
Justice Anthony Besanko concluded that four of the six murder allegations against Roberts-Smith have been true, severely damaging the Victoria Cross recipient’s reputation. The defamation case has been described as a “disastrous miscalculation” and an “expensive personal goal” for the former soldier, and it remains unsure whether he’ll face felony charges.
Dr Jelena Gligorijevic, a senior lecturer in regulation on the Australian National University (ANU), explains that prosecutors must now determine if there is enough proof to show the murders “beyond reasonable doubt.” She adds, “This defamation judgement is not at all conclusive on whether or not they will prosecute, after which whether or not they will be profitable.”
Calls for Roberts-Smith to be stripped of his navy honours have emerged, along with calls for for the removing of tributes devoted to him on the Australian War Memorial (AWM). In response, the AWM stated that it is “considering rigorously the additional content and context to be included” in displays referencing the former Special Air Service (SAS) corporal.
Roberts-Smith’s lawyer has not ruled out an appeal, but the civil trial is already estimated to have cost round US$16.3 million. Additionally, the former soldier resigned from his high-ranking place at Seven West Media on Friday.
The trial has raised further questions about Australia’s army, which has long been thought to be having a distinguished legacy. However, the Brereton Report in 2020 revealed “credible evidence” that elite troopers unlawfully killed 39 people in Afghanistan. This 12 months, former SAS soldier Oliver Schulz turned the first individual to be charged with the warfare crime of homicide.
Australia’s government has established an Office of the Special Investigator (OSI), which is currently investigating “40 matters” in collaboration with the police. International law professor Donald Campbell from ANU confirms that Roberts-Smith’s actions “certainly fall within the scope” of the OSI’s work. However, Ironclad presented in the defamation case can’t be utilized in a felony trial, and investigations would wish to begin anew.
Many consultants argue that the Brereton Report and testimonies from Roberts-Smith’s case call for a deeper reckoning. James Connor, a army sociologist at the University of New South Wales, emphasises that these troopers weren’t working independently and that responsibility for their actions must be shared widely. He additionally highlights the need for a cultural shift inside the Australian Defence Force, which has grappled with a “cultural problem” for “decades.”

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