An Iraqi man has had his case seeking compensation for the deaths of 35 family members killed in an Australian air strike dismissed.
The unnamed man who lives in Iraq claimed a “grace settlement” last year from the Australian government after the incident which took place in Mosul in 2017, requesting a settlement in the low hundreds of thousands of Australian dollars.
The airstrike was one of a series of offensives carried out by the Australia Defence Force (ADF) which was part of the international coalition fighting Daesh. On 13 June 2017, while targeting Daesh fighters, the ADF accidentally hit a residential building where civilians were seeking shelter in the Al-Shafaar neighbourhood.
The claimant says that 35 people from his extended family, including 14 children, nine women and two imams were killed in the airstrike. Seven of them were direct family members, reported the Guardian.
However, in December 2021 the case was rejected, despite the delegate handling the claim not having access to an ADF report on whether one of its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets was responsible for the airstrike. Instead the ADF’s advice that its investigation found no evidence of civilian deaths was accepted.
Evidence included statements made in February 2019 by the ADF’s chief of joint operations Air Marshall Mel Hupfeld who said the allegations were “credible” but estimated 6-18 people may have been killed. A US Department of Defence report that same year also described claims of a coalition airstrike hitting civilians that day as being “credible”, with 11 people estimated killed.
Late last month, lawyers on behalf of the claimant applied for an internal review on the decision, requesting that a new delegate be assigned to the case.
Jacinta Lewin SC said: “To the extent that there is uncertainty about the precise details of the Australian airstrikes, this is a product of (the ADF’s) refusal to provide information about them.”
“[Its] refusal should strengthen, rather than weaken, the conclusion that there is a real likelihood that Australian airstrikes were responsible for the deaths.”