Veterans should not be ‘endlessly pursued’ in war crimes investigations

Veterans should not be ‘endlessly pursued’ in war crimes investigations

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The visiting British Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs has warned that war crimes investigations should not continue to harass veterans without evidence.

Conservative Party politician Johnny Mercer, a former army captain who served in Afghanistan, has been outspoken on the treatment of armed services personnel.

He says that war crimes allegations that ultimately failed to be prosecuted had forced veterans to “live under the unique burden of vexatious claims and the cycle of seemingly endless reinvestigations.”

Although he could not comment on ongoing inquiries in Australia or Britain, Mr Mercer said special forces in Britain had a “huge level of surveillance”.

“Where there is evidence that our people are not living up to the values ​​and standards we expect, we will hold them accountable,” he told AAP.

“But we must ensure that those who bravely served their country are not pursued endlessly.”

Britain is currently investigating claims that British special forces committed extrajudicial killings during the war in Afghanistan, and has previously prosecuted them for war crimes.

In 2006, Corporal Donald Payne became the first member of the British Armed Forces to be convicted of war crimes, for which he was dismissed from the army and jailed for a year.

Seven years later, a member of the Royal Marines was convicted of murdering an unarmed Taliban insurgent and was initially sentenced to life in prison, before his sentence was commuted to murder.

Meanwhile, Australian authorities laid their first war crimes-related murder charge against Defense Force member Oliver Schultz in March and have yet to charge anyone else, despite the scathing findings of the Brereton report and a defamation suit in which Victoria Cross medalist Ben-Roberts Smith was found guilty. War crimes were committed.

Mr Mercer is meeting with his Australian counterpart Matt Keogh in Perth for bilateral discussions on how both countries can improve support for veterans.

He said, “The nature of these wars very far from home is not always universally supported – where you’ll have a period of intense combat and then you can come back to a McDonald’s eight hours later in Perth or London. Are.” Said.

“This is a huge mental challenge for many of our combat soldiers … and we need to make sure our soldiers are mentally equipped to deal with it.”

He also pointed to issues veterans face such as homelessness, substance abuse, unemployment and an increased risk of suicide.

While Australia leads the UK in investment in veterans’ affairs, the suicide rate of former Australian soldiers is high.

Mr Mercer hopes both countries can learn from each other and says they have made positive steps forward in the area of ​​veteran employment.

He said, “The changes I see now are good. From looking at service personnel in a charity case to keeping experienced people in your company, it is the best business decision.”

Mr Keogh and Mr Mercer will visit the Mandurah War Memorial in Perth to honor families whose sons were killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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