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ACT minister calls on commonwealth to drop prosecution of defence whistleblower David McBride

Henri Scott

July 12, 2023

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David McBride says his prosecution over the alleged leaking of confidential documents to the ABC is taking a significant toll on him and his family. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Original Source: The Guardian, Christopher Knaus

The ACT veterans minister, Emma Davidson, has called for the commonwealth to intervene and end the prosecution of defence whistleblower David McBride, saying his looming trial is “not in the public interest”.

McBride, a military lawyer who served in Afghanistan, is facing trial in the ACT supreme court in November for his alleged leaking of a cache of confidential documents to the ABC.

Those documents were later used for a 2017 series on Australian special forces’ war crimes, dubbed the “Afghan Files”, which included allegations of troops killing unarmed men and children.

Standing beside McBride and lawyer Bernard Collaery on Wednesday, Davidson, a local Greens MLA, said the prosecution must end.

Davidson said it was not in Australia’s interests or the interests of veterans.

“This prosecution is not in the public interest and it’s time for this prosecution to be dropped,” she said.

McBride said the prosecution had already cost the commonwealth $1.8m as of February this year.

“It hasn’t even gone to trial. I’d really like to see that money spent on mental health programs to support veterans,” she said.

McBride is likely to face trial before any alleged perpetrator of war crimes. He said the case was taking a significant toll on him and his family.

“I look at photos of myself 10 years ago and I look like a different person,” he said. “My marriage disintegrated … we have a huge legal bill.

“I live with stress. It’s quite possible every time I spend with my kids, going to the beach or going to see a movie, will be the last time I do so.”

The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has so far shown no sign that he will intervene in the case. He has previously intervened to end the prosecution of Collaery, whose disclosures exposed Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste during oil and gas negotiations. But Dreyfus has also signalled that his powers must be reserved for exceptional cases only.

McBride said it would be embarrassing for the government if he was sent to jail and perpetrators of war crimes were not.

“What does that say about justice in Australia?” he said.

Collaery said a lengthy trial of McBride would reopen wounds all over the nation.

“It will reopen the questions posed to Australia by our allies and it will reopen the concern we have for morale in our defence force,” he said.

The Human Rights Law Centre, which has advocated for an end to McBride’s prosecution, warned that unless the government intervenes he will become “the first person on trial over Australia’s war crimes in Afghanistan – the whistleblower, not a war criminal”.

“Anthony Albanese and Mark Dreyfus KC cannot remain idle while this unjust case drags on,” the Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer, Kieran Pender, said.

“The case must be stopped, now, and whistleblowing laws reformed so this can never happen again.”

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Written By Henri Scott

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