Concerns raised alleged war criminals escaped overseas

Concerns have been raised that slow progress prosecuting Australians alleged to have committed war crimes has resulted in some of the accused fleeing overseas to nations with no reciprocal extradition agreements.

Greens senator David Shoebridge pushed the Office of the Special Investigator Director General Chris Moraitis in a fiery exchange about the allegations during a Senate hearing late Monday night.

Senator Shoebrige alleged under parliamentary privilege some of the 19 special forces soldiers suspected of committing war crimes in Afghanistan had left Australia.

Mr Moraitis refused to confirm the number but said his office was investigating people "in countries which may or may not have extradition relations with Australia".

Senator Shoebridge also alleged some had worked as mercenaries, but Mr Moraitis said he was unaware of this.

Despite extradition hurdles, the Australian legal processes had "a very good chance of achieving justice", Mr Moraitis said.

"Albeit delayed," he added.

He also revealed one soldier who may have been a material witness in the prosecution case had since died by suicide.

Greens senator David Shoebridge.
Greens senator David Shoebridge questioned Mr Moraitis during the late night hearing.

Senator Shoebridge challenged the director general over the fact only one person had been charged with a war crime since the office was stood up three years ago.

"Do any of those KPIs (key performance indicators) actually involve charging the 19 people?" he asked.

Mr Moraitis defended the work of his office, saying it was seeking to have as many people who were referred to it charged.

"We have charged one person with murder, the first person in Australian history has actually been charged with a war crime for the record," he responded.

The investigations stem from a document known as the Brereton report, which investigated alleged war crimes by Australian troops between 2005 and 2016.

It found credible evidence of 39 murders of Afghan civilians and prisoners committed by or at the instruction of Australian soldiers.

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