News Update


Ben Roberts-Smith: Top Australian soldier loses defamation case for war crimes

Ben Roberts-Smith, Australia’s most decorated living soldier, has lost a landmark defamation action against three newspapers that accused him of war crimes in Afghanistan.

The newspapers were sued for publishing claims claiming he had slain defenseless inmates or civilians.

The civil trial was the first time in history that a court considered allegations of war crimes committed by Australian forces.

A judge ruled that the claims, which the soldier rejected, were essentially true.

Other claims against him included assaulting a lady with whom he was having an affair and threatening to denounce a junior colleague if he did not fabricate field reports, according to Justice Anthony Besanko. However, more complaints of bullying were proven to be valid.

Mr Roberts-Smith has not been charged with any of the claims, and no criminal charges have been filed against him. He did not appear in court on Thursday.

In 2011, the 44-year-old got Australia’s highest military honor, the Victoria Cross, for single-handedly defeating Taliban machine-gunners who were attacking his platoon.

Mr Roberts-Smith’s public image was tainted in 2018, however, when journalists Nick McKenzie, Chris Masters, and David Wroe began writing articles concerning his misbehavior in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, and The Canberra Times.

According to the publications, Mr Roberts-Smith, an elite Special Air Service (SAS) soldier, was implicated in six murders of defenseless captives in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012.

Five of the killings, according to the elite soldier, occurred legitimately during combat, while the sixth did not occur at all.

Four of the murder claims were deemed to be essentially true by Justice Besanko, while there was insufficient evidence for the other two.


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