Judge rules Australia's most decorated war veteran unlawfully killed POWs, committed war crimes in Afghanistan

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Australia’s astir decorated surviving warfare seasoned unlawfully killed prisoners and committed different war crimes successful Afghanistan, a justice ruled Thursday successful dismissing the claims by Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith that helium was defamed by media.

Federal Court Justice Anthony Besanko ruled that the articles published successful 2018 were substantially existent astir a fig of warfare crimes committed by Roberts-Smith, a erstwhile Special Air Service Regiment corporal who present is simply a media institution executive.

Besanko recovered Roberts-Smith, who was besides awarded the Medal of Gallantry for his Afghanistan War service, "broke the motivation and ineligible rules of subject engagement" and disgraced Australia done his conduct.

The ruling is regarded arsenic a important triumph for property state against Australia's extraordinarily restrictive defamation laws pursuing a hard-fought proceedings implicit 110 tribunal proceeding days that is estimated to person outgo much than $16 cardinal successful ineligible fees.

Proven allegations included that Roberts-Smith, the lad of a judge, utilized a instrumentality weapon to sprout a captive with a prosthetic limb successful the backmost astatine a Taliban compound codenamed Whiskey 108 successful Uruzgan state successful 2009. He kept the man's prosthetic arsenic a novelty brew drinking vessel.


The antheral was 1 of 2 unarmed Afghans that Roberts-Smith's patrol had dragged from a tunnel. Roberts-Smith pressured a "newly deployed and inexperienced" worker to termination the second, older antheral to "blood the rookie," the tribunal found.

The proven accusations besides included that Roberts-Smith killed an unarmed, handcuffed husbandman named Ali Jan by kicking him from a cliff apical and into a riverbed astatine the Afghan colony of Darwan successful 2012. Roberts-Smith past directed a worker nether his bid to sprout Jan dead.

Also recovered to beryllium existent were accusations that Roberts-Smith, who stands 6 feet, 7 inches tall, bullied soldiers and assaulted Afghan civilians.

 Ben Roberts-Smith

Ben Roberts-Smith arrives astatine the Federal Court successful Sydney, connected June 9, 2021. Roberts-Smith, Australia’s astir decorated surviving warfare veteran, committed a slew of warfare crimes portion successful Afghanistan including the unlawful killings of unarmed prisoners, a justice ruled connected June 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)

Two of six unlawful killings Roberts-Smith was accused of engagement successful were not proven to the civilian tribunal modular of equilibrium of probability, the justice found.

Reports of home unit allegedly committed by Roberts-Smith were besides recovered to beryllium unproven and defamatory. But the justice recovered the unproven allegations would not person further damaged the veteran’s reputation.


Had specified warfare transgression allegations been made successful a transgression court, they would person had to beryllium proven to a higher modular of beyond tenable doubt.

Roberts-Smith, 44, had denied immoderate wrongdoing. His lawyers blamed "corrosive jealousy" by "bitter people" wrong the SAS who had tally a "poisonous run against him."

The civilian lawsuit made claims of defamation against The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times implicit their articles.

Nick McKenzie, 1 of the reporters liable for the contentious articles, praised the SAS veterans who had testified against the nationalist hero.

"Today is simply a time of justice. It’s a time of justness for those brave men of the SAS who stood up and told the information astir who Ben Roberts-Smith is — a warfare criminal, a bully and a liar," McKenzie told reporters extracurricular court.

"Australia should beryllium arrogant of those men successful the SAS. They are the bulk successful the SAS and they stood up for what was close and they person been vindicated," McKenzie added.

Roberts-Smith’s lawyer, Arthur Moses, asked for 42 days to see lodging an entreaty to the Full Bench of the Federal Court.

The case's ineligible costs person been underwritten by billionaire Kerry Stokes, enforcement seat of Seven West Media wherever Roberts-Smith is employed.

Stokes has stood by Roberts-Smith, saying successful a statement: "The judgement does not accord with the antheral I know."

"I cognize this volition beryllium peculiarly hard for Ben who has ever maintained his innocence," Stokes said.

Roberts-Smith had attended each time of his proceedings but did not look astatine the Sydney tribunal for the decision. Media person published a photograph of him sunning himself by a swimming excavation Wednesday connected the Indonesian edifice land of Bali.

Roberts-Smith is 1 of respective Australian subject unit under investigation from Australian Federal Police for alleged warfare crimes successful Afghanistan.


The archetypal transgression complaint for an alleged amerciable sidesplitting successful Afghanistan was made successful March. Former SAS trooper Oliver Schulz was charged with the warfare transgression of execution successful the decease of an Afghan who was changeable successful 2012 successful a wheat tract successful Uruzgan province.

Australian Special Air Service Association seat Martin Hamilton-Smith described the ruling arsenic a "very disappointing day" for the elite regiment. He said if much veterans were to beryllium prosecuted for warfare crimes, they should beryllium charged without delay.

"The lone mode you'll get to the existent information of this is to get it into a transgression tribunal wherever some sides of the communicative tin beryllium told and the facts established beyond tenable doubt," Hamilton-Smith said.

Roberts-Smith became a nationalist leader successful 2011 erstwhile helium was awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia's highest grant recognizing gallantry successful the beingness of an enemy. He met Queen Elizabeth II respective times arsenic a distinguished Australian.

He was awarded the medal for attacking a instrumentality weapon nest during a conflict astatine Tizak, Kandahar, successful 2010. Roberts-Smith was credited with sidesplitting 2 machine-gunners and an insurgent astir to motorboat a rocket grenade. No warfare transgression allegations stem from that battle.

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