Media release

Senator Babet calls for inquiry into historic execution of two Australian servicemen

In 1902, two Australian soldiers, Lieutenants Morant and Handcock were executed for following orders during the Boer War with a third serviceman Lieutenant George Witton imprisoned for life. It is alleged the facts of the case have been covered up by the British Government and Australian family members have made fresh calls for a long overdue investigation because they are desperate to know the truth.

United Australia Party Senator, Ralph Babet, said: “On Anzac Day we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice made by Australian soldiers. The circumstances surrounding the execution of these soldiers is chilling, not only that they were put to death by our allies at the time but more importantly that it was done so without the knowledge of their families or proper access to legal representation.

“We must find out how and why this happened not only for the descendants but for all Australians.”

Cathie Morant who is the great-niece of Lieutenant ‘Breaker’ Morant said, “It’s been a stain on our family’s name and this nation’s history for over a century and knowing the true facts of the case has only made it harder. There have been so many false dawns and I hope this time that we get the whole truth and resolution.” she said.

Military Lawyer James Unkles, who has pursued justice for the descendants for the past decade states is still working with the families and had a dogged determination to see justice for these Australian war veterans. James Unkles says ‘We now have an opportunity to investigate the circumstances surrounding their execution by allied British forces, through the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade of which Senator Babet is a member.

The controversy occurred 121 years ago when the Australian government was led by Edmund Barton, but glaring inconsistencies in the evidence presented by the British and an alleged abuse of the judicial process were never pursued. Through the passage of time successive Australian Governments have since failed to address the matter.

Unkles noted. “It’s been 13 years since the Parliamentary Petitions Committee concluded that there was a case to answer and the fact that Morant, Handcock and Witton are deceased does not diminish errors in the administration of justice. Injustices in times of war are inexcusable and it takes vigilance to right wrongs, to honour our servicemen who were unfairly treated.”

Through unrelenting work in pursuit of justice James Unkles’ campaign is backed by legal opinions from many respected senior legal counsel and community figures, including noted international lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, AO, QC and Sir Laurence Street, AC, KCMG, KStJ, QC, former Chief Justice of NSW. He sees this as an opportunity to finally give relief to the descendants of these men who have waited a lifetime for justice through the parliamentary committee process.?