Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Australia and detention

There's a nasty political scandal brewing over the Tasman, after the Public Interest Advocacy Centre obtained a large pile of previously classified documents about the Australian military's treatment of detainees. Among the revelations:

The Australian Government deliberately tried to avoid its obligations under international law in relation to detainees caught by the Australia Defence Force in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Australia’s detainee policy had disastrous consequences.

The previously classified and confidential documents reveal that an Iranian man, Tanik Mahmud, died in custody. He was captured by Australian SAS troops in Western Iraq and transferred to UK custody. There is strong evidence suggesting that Mr Mahmud was fatally assaulted by UK RAF troops. The UK and Australian governments have refused to release the full details surrounding the death.

The Australian Government had prior knowledge of illegal detention practices in Iraq, including at Abu Ghraib prison. This included hiding prisoners from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and obstructing the ICRC’s access to prisoners. An Australian military lawyer advised on US interrogation techniques and concluded they were open to abuse.

The Australian Government failed to raise concerns about US breaches of international law with its ally. This suggests some level of complicity on behalf of the Australian Government.

The Australian Government misled Parliament and deliberately withheld important information from the Australian public relating to detainee mistreatment in Afghanistan and Iraq.

These are serious allegations, and the Australian public deserves serious answers. Instead, they'll likely face stonewalling from a military desperate to avoid embarrassment.