Former Special Forces Sues Australian Public Broadcaster Over Warfare Crime Allegations

Former particular forces operative Heston Russell has filed a lawsuit towards the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) and journalists—Joshua Robertson and Mark Willacy—over articles alleging he was concerned in committing conflict crimes whereas on deployment in Afghanistan.

In a press release of declare filed with the Federal Court docket of Australia, Russell’s attorneys pointed to a November article revealed on the ABC’s web site that alleged he was suspected of committing conflict crimes by the Division of Defence and Workplace of the Particular Investigator.

The article cites a former U.S. Marines helicopter crew chief who mentioned Russell was chargeable for killing a hogtied prisoner in Helmand Province in July 2012 as a result of there was no room for him on the plane.

The article was linked to an earlier piece in October that featured allegations from the U.S. Marines chief—a door gunner offering aerial cowl for Australian troopers.

Profile picture of Heston Russell, chief of the Australian Values Get together, a veteran affairs advocate and former particular forces operative. (Provided)

“By motive of the publication and republication of the November Article and Linked Article, Russell has been gravely injured in his character, his private fame, and his skilled fame as a former member of the armed forces and has suffered and can proceed to undergo substantial damage, misery and embarrassment,” in accordance with the assertion of declare (pdf).

In response, the general public broadcaster issued a press release to The Epoch Occasions saying, “The ABC will defend its journalism on this vital subject of public curiosity.”

Russell additionally claimed he was not given a possibility to answer the allegations within the article by ABC.

In an editor’s word on the backside of the article from November, the ABC acknowledged that the story was amended on Jan. 19, 2022, to replicate Russell’s denial of any allegation.

Ongoing Warfare Crimes Investigations

One of many journalists topic to the lawsuit, Mark Willacy, was awarded the Gold Walkley in 2020 for his work on alleged conflict crimes by Australian particular forces.

His work additionally got here amid the discharge of the Brereton Report into the alleged actions of Australian Defence Drive personnel in Afghanistan, discovering troopers have been chargeable for the killing of 39 civilians or prisoners.

Former soldier and not too long ago elected MP Keith Wolahan instructed Parliament on Sept. 5 that Australia wanted to desire “truth-telling over myth-making.”

“From the allegations within the Brereton Report back to the autumn of Kabul, now we have an obligation to withstand all that occurred. Twenty-one years later, we are able to pretty ask: how did we reorder the world round us?

“If we reply that query with humility, then we are going to recognise the boundaries of navy energy alone. If we reply that query with honesty, then we can have demonstrated that ours is an open and accountable democracy. That’s one thing price preventing for.”

Daniel Y. Teng

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Daniel Y. Teng relies in Sydney. He focuses on nationwide affairs together with federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Bought a tip? Contact him at