The Shadow of Operation Northmoor: Salient Lessons for Australia’s Own Prosecutions

Fowler, A. 2023. The Shadow of Operation Northmoor: Salient Lessons for Australia’s Own Prosecutions. Australian International Law Journal.

TitleThe Shadow of Operation Northmoor: Salient Lessons for Australia’s Own Prosecutions
TypeJournal article
AuthorsFowler, A.
Abstract

Operation Northmoor, the companion UK investigation to that then already underway regarding Iraq , was set up in 2014 by the Royal Military Police (RMP) to investigate allegations of summary executions by UK Special Forces (UKSF) soldiers in Afghanistan. It contains a number of salient take-aways for Australia’s investigations into its own Special Forces’ war crimes, as detailed in the Brereton Report. Unfortunately however, few of these lessons are positive. While there have been improvements in operational procedures and requirements regarding oversight of deployed military personnel as a result of review and reforms, the scorecard for prosecutions was dismal. Not only did no convictions result even when many of the crimes were similar in nature to those detailed by Brereton, the UK government’s pro-military and generally hostile approach to war crimes allegations ultimately led to its introduction of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act 2021 which holds the potential to markedly restrict the number of future war crimes investigations.

Australia’s Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) has recently announced the first prosecution coming out of the Brereton Report - that of Oliver Jordan Schulz for the war crime of murder under Division 268 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth). Given that the UK has already been down the path of investigating alleged war crimes its forces committed in Afghanistan, a review of the UK experience of prosecutions is instructive. This article thus examines Operation Northmoor’s processes and outcomes of potential relevance to Australia’s own investigations. It also discusses the infamous Blackman case, which has a number of features similar to crimes alleged in the Brereton Report. In doing so, the article highlights investigatory and prosecutorial practice which has the potential to make accountability for Australian war crimes just as elusive.

KeywordsAfghanistan
war crimes
victims
Australia
Operation Northmoor
JournalAustralian International Law Journal
Year2023
PublisherInternational Law Association (Australian Branch)
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)

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