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Watchdogs urge Australia to compensate war crimes victims

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KABUL: Australian and Afghan rights groups have urged Australia to not balk at its plan to compensate victims of alleged war crimes, warning that crisis in Afghanistan should not delay the compensations.
“The essential task of involving Afghans should not be put off due to the dramatic deterioration in the country’s humanitarian situation and its fall to the Taliban,” an alliance of human rights groups warned on Friday.
A statement issued by 13 human rights groups, including the Afghanistan-based Transitional Justice Coordination Group and Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization, said it was crucial that survivors of alleged abuses were consulted to determine the proper forms of redress, which should include guarantees of non-repetition.
According to Brereton report, released exactly one year ago, there are credible information implicating 25 current or former Australian defence forces in the alleged unlawful killing of 39 people and the cruel treatment of two others in Afghanistan and recommended a number of cases be referred for investigation. Defence has previously signalled it will release a compensation plan by the end of this year.
The report said the Australian government is recommended to provide redress to the families of victims, without waiting for prosecutions to conclude.
“The Brereton report recommended that the families of survivors be compensated without delay,” the statement said. “One year on, the Government has yet to produce a plan.”
“The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated dramatically in the twelve months since the Brereton Report was published. This will likely complicate the task of involving people from Afghanistan in the process of reckoning with this dark chapter in Australia’s history.
“Yet it remains an essential part of the path forward.”
The Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organization executive director, Hadi Marifat, said the change of circumstances in Afghanistan “must not affect the resolve of the Australian government”.
“Victims’ families and survivors impatiently wait for the long-promised justice, accountability and reparations,” Marifat said.

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