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Thursday, June 01, 2023
Australia's most-decorated living soldier is a war criminal and murderer
Today the Federal Court handed down its decision in the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case against The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. It is a historic decision that vindicated our journalism and found we have proventhat Australia's most-decorated living soldier is a war criminal and murderer who breached the Geneva Convention.
For 10 months our journalists Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters awaited a decision on their investigations which we first published back in 2018.
Roberts-Smith, a former Special Air Service corporal, launched defamation proceedings against our mastheads in August of that year and we have vigorously defended our journalists and their reporting since.
The case had been described as a critical test of public interest journalism for Australia and it was indeed a landmark day for journalism but, as Nick said outside court, it was a day of justice.
Justice for the family of Ali Jan who was kicked off a cliff by Ben Roberts-Smith and shot. Justice for the Afghan villagers who testified about what Roberts-Smith did in their country, including pressuring a rookie soldier to execute an elderly, unarmed man and machine-gunning a man with a prosthetic leg that he took home as a trophy. And justice for the brave SAS soldiers who stood up and told the truth about Roberts-Smith – that he is a war criminal, a bully and a liar who disgraced his country.
“Australia should be proud of those men in the SAS. They are the majority in the SAS and they stood up for what was right, and they’ve been vindicated,” Nick said.
Although the court found that our successful contextual truth defence covered allegations of domestic abuse levelled at Roberts-Smith, those specific allegations themselves could not be proven in court to the requisite standard. We are disappointed by this and we acknowledge “Person 17” (who can’t be identified for legal reasons) for testifying amid difficult circumstances.
Nick and Chris never wanted this story to be about them but our newsrooms are incredibly proud of their dogged determination to pursue the truth. They painstakingly and methodically pieced together these investigations for two years before publication, and the decision – after a trial lasting 110 days, involving 41 witnesses and estimated to be more than $25 million in legal costs – reinforces the importance of the exhaustive public interest journalism that The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are committed to.
More at https://www.smh.com.au/national/ben-roberts-smith-case-former-sas-soldier-committed-war-crimes-20230314-p5crv4.html