Bombshell report: Struggle to fill SAS investigator role
The appointment of a Special Investigator to bring prosecutions against up to 19 Australian Special Forces soldiers has proved problematic, with the Government struggling to immediately find someone willing to do the job.
The role of Special Investigator was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on November 12 but as yet no senior lawyer or retired judge has been signed up.
The Special Investigator will have responsibility for bringing prosecutions against a number of the 19 Special Forces soldiers referred for investigation by the Assistant Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, NSW Judge Paul Brereton.
Justice Brereton's report, released last month, found 25 current and former Commandos and Special Air Service Regiment operators had committed war crimes in Afghanistan, including involvement in the murders of 39 civilians and prisoners.
He recommended 19 of them be referred for investigation relating to 23 incidents including murders and cruel treatment of prisoners.
News Corp has been told that after some initial delays, it was hoped a person would be appointed to the role as soon as next week. The Government also believed the short delay was not unusual, given it was often difficult to find appointees for similar roles such as royal commissioners.
The Special Investigator will work within the existing legislation applicable to the Australian Federal Police, and any charges laid would be dealt with under Australian criminal law.
The Government believes this would keep any Australian soldiers out of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The Department of Home Affairs will be the control agency for the Special Investigator's office, to ensure it is at arm's length from the Department of Defence.
It's believed an initial budget outlay of $3 million has been set aside, but more money will be made available as required, with the process set to run for several more years.
Mr Morrison announced the decision to appoint a Special Investigator the week before a redacted version of the Brereton inquiry was made public by the Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Campbell.
"The Office of the Special Investigator will address the criminal matters made in the Inspector-General's report and investigate those allegations, gather evidence and where appropriate refer briefs to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration,'' Mr Morrison said on November 12.
"The investigation will require co-operation with international agencies and the evaluation of large amounts of material. The Special Investigator will be an eminent person with experience in the justice system and international law."
Federal and state police, lawyers, and support personnel will be hired by the Special Investigator's office.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton's office said: "When we have an announcement to make regarding these appointments it will be made.''
Originally published as Bombshell report: Struggle to fill SAS investigator role