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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 03:12 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 03:12 | SYDNEY

AFP must now act on war crimes

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COMMENTS

21 December 2009 09:24

The NSW Supreme Court on Friday handed down a striking judgment in the case of Daniel Snedden. In his defamation case against Nationwide News (publisher of The Australian) for an article the newspaper published entitled 'Serbian death squad commander alive and well and teaching golf in Perth', the court found in favour of Nationwide News and ordered Mr Snedden to pay costs.

The judgement reads like a de facto war crimes trial. The plaintiff, Mr Snedden (who strenuously denies the allegations against him), argued the article in The Australian implied:

  1. The plaintiff was a death squad commander.
  2. The plaintiff has condoned the rape of women and girls.
  3. The plaintiff was a mercenary.
  4. The plaintiff had admitted committing a massacre.
  5. The plaintiff was before 1991 a criminal.
  6. The plaintiff before 1991 had underworld links.
  7. The plaintiff, an Australian citizen, went to a foreign state and engaged in hostile activity in that foreign state, which is contrary to Australian law. 
  8. The plaintiff, as commander of Serbian paramilitary units, which committed the war crime of torture, bore responsibility for the commission of that crime.
  9. The plaintiff, as commander of Serbian paramilitary units, which committed torture, bore responsibility for the commission of that crime.
  10. The plaintiff condoned the commission of the war crime of torture.
  11. The plaintiff condoned the commission of torture.
  12. The plaintiff committed the war crime of torture.
  13. The plaintiff committed torture.
  14. The plaintiff condoned the rape of women.
  15. The plaintiff participated in the organised rape of women.
  16. The plaintiff raped a woman.
  17. The plaintiff committed war crimes.

Given the Supreme Court found in Nationwide News' favour, and given passages like the following, it's hard to see how the AFP can avoid investigating this case if, as we have noted before, Mr Snedden's extradition to Croatia fails to go ahead.

Accepting that these witnesses were both truthful and reliable, as I do, there is overwhelming evidence of the commission of torture and the war crime of torture by members of the Serbian paramilitary units under the plaintiff’s command. Much of this evidence was not seriously challenged. As I have already noted, the real challenge was directed to the evidence of the plaintiff’s presence during these events and the extent to which the plaintiff can be held accountable for the actions of his men. Once the witness’ evidence of the plaintiff’s presence during the various assaults is accepted, it follows that the plaintiff condoned the commission of torture by failing to act to prevent it. 

Given the tenor of the plaintiff’s evidence, it is also beyond doubt that he must be held accountable for the assaults perpetrated by his men. 

The Australian Government might also want to dust off its election pledge to close the loopholes in Australia's war crimes legislation.

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