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Thematic Issue: Law and Economics/General

The Doctrine of Command Responsibility in Australian Military Law


Anthony Gray

The recently released Brereton Inquiry Report found there was credible evidence to suggest a small number of members of the Australian Defence Force were involved in war crimes in Afghanistan. If the allegations are proven to be true at the required standard of proof, one important legal question is the extent, if any, to which those in command of those who committed the crimes are liable for them. This is the doctrine of command responsibility. The article charts development of the doctrine in international law, explores its controversial and uncertain legal basis, considers its compatibility with fundamental principles of criminal law, and offers some suggestions as to how the relevant statutory provision might be interpreted, in a way that is compatible with international law as well as fundamental aspects of Australian criminal law.

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(2022) 45(3) UNSWLJ 914: