By Mike Head:
Australian soldier’s death in Iraq covered-up
Private Jacob Kovco: the unanswered questions
25 September 2006
Like everything associated with the invasion of Iraq, the military board of inquiry into the death of Private Jacob Kovco has become a fiasco laced with lies and cover-up.
On April 21, Kovco, aged just 25, became the first Australian soldier to die in Iraq after being shot through the head with his own 9mm Browning pistol while in his barracks at the Australian Embassy in Baghdad.
From the outset, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson lied about the circumstances of Kovco’s death.
At the same time, Australian consular officials handed his corpse over to a private contractor in Kuwait, which then transported the body of a Bosnian civilian contractor to Australia for burial.
Immediately, it appeared that the government was hiding something.
Kovco had just come off shift from one of the most psychologically traumatising tasks performed by Australian troops in Iraq.
He was an elite sniper, protecting the convoys of light armoured vehicles that transport Australian military, political, diplomatic and intelligence officials around the war-torn capital.
Only three possibilities existed: Kovco committed suicide, he accidentally shot himself or he was killed by a fellow soldier.
Each was politically disastrous for the government, threatening to trigger new concerns about the inhuman conditions faced by the soldiers sent to enforce the US-led occupation of Iraq, and to rekindle widespread opposition to the war.
Five months later, after weeks of contradictory testimony at the inquiry, it is clear that the government and the military brass have worked systematically to prevent the truth ever being known.
When the inquiry ended its hearings last week, and its officers retired to write their report, a litany of unanswered questions remained.
* Virtually all the crime scene evidence in Baghdad was quickly destroyed, either willfully or accidentally, by military officers.
Kovco’s room, which had been splattered with blood, was cleaned out, despite pleas from civilian police to preserve the evidence.
Kovco’s clothes were destroyed, while those worn by his roommates were washed.
Military police performed no forensic tests.
Iraqis’ views on attacks on US troops: here.