Afghanistan/Australia — Paper presented by the Minister for Defence on casualties, procedural issues etc.

Last Decem­ber I announced Australia’s detainee man­age­ment frame­work for Afghanistan fol­low­ing the Dutch with­draw­al from Uruz­gan Province on 1 August 2010. 

Get­ting Australia’s detainee man­age­ment arrange­ments right was important. 

Aus­tralia takes very seri­ous­ly its respon­si­bil­i­ty for ensur­ing detainees are treat­ed with dig­ni­ty and respect as befits the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of our forces and con­sis­tent with our domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al legal obligations. 

In devel­op­ing this frame­work, Aus­tralia has two pri­or­i­ties in mind. The first pri­or­i­ty is the crit­i­cal need to remove insur­gents from the bat­tle­field, where they endan­ger Aus­tralian, Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and Afghan lives. The sec­ond pri­or­i­ty is the need to ensure humane treat­ment of detainees, con­sis­tent with Aus­tralian val­ues and our legal obligations. 

The detainee man­age­ment frame­work draws on applic­a­ble inter­na­tion­al stan­dards and advice from inter­na­tion­al organ­i­sa­tions. It is con­sis­tent with the Laws of Armed Con­flict and the Gene­va Conventions. 

After detainees are cap­tured, the Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF) holds them in a pur­pose-built screen­ing facil­i­ty in Tarin Kot in Uruz­gan Province for a lim­it­ed amount of time. 

The screen­ing facil­i­ty is intend­ed to be under con­stant cam­era sur­veil­lance and the facil­i­ty is open to reg­u­lar inspec­tion by the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross. 

Detainees in the Aus­tralian cus­tody are able to freely prac­tice their reli­gion, and are pro­vid­ed access to exer­cise, ade­quate food and water, suit­able sleep­ing arrange­ments and oth­er amenities. 

Once ini­tial screen­ing is com­plete, the detainees are trans­ferred either to Afghan or Unit­ed States cus­tody, or released if there is insuf­fi­cient evi­dence to jus­ti­fy ongo­ing detention. 

Those assessed as pos­ing a less seri­ous threat are trans­ferred to the Afghan Nation­al Direc­torate of Secu­ri­ty in Uruzgan. 

Those assessed as pos­ing a seri­ous threat are trans­ferred to the US-run deten­tion facil­i­ty in Par­wan Province. This pro­vides a lev­el of secu­ri­ty appro­pri­ate for hous­ing high-risk insurgents. 

In the peri­od 1 August 2010 to 20 March 2011, Aus­tralia appre­hend­ed 468 detainees. Of these, 92 have been trans­ferred to Afghan or Unit­ed States author­i­ties. The remain­der have been released fol­low­ing ini­tial screening. 

In the same peri­od, I am advised the ADF have cap­tured five peo­ple who were sub­se­quent­ly released, then recap­tured. Four of the indi­vid­u­als in ques­tion were released as there was insuf­fi­cient evi­dence to war­rant their con­tin­ued detention. 

In the case of the fifth indi­vid­ual, the sec­ond time he was appre­hend­ed there was suf­fi­cient evi­dence to pro­vide a con­clu­sive link to the insur­gency. In accor­dance with Australia’s detainee man­age­ment frame­work, he was trans­ferred to the Deten­tion Facil­i­ty in Parwan. 

Detainee mon­i­tor­ing and alle­ga­tions of mis­treat­ment

A detainee mon­i­tor­ing team of Aus­tralian offi­cials mon­i­tors detainees’ wel­fare and con­di­tions while they are in US or Afghan cus­tody, until they are released or sen­tenced. The mon­i­tor­ing team vis­it detainees short­ly after trans­fer and around every four weeks after the ini­tial visits. 

This mon­i­tor­ing is under­pinned by for­mal arrange­ments with Afghanistan and the US, which include assur­ances on the humane treat­ment of detainees and free access by Aus­tralian offi­cials and human rights organisations. 

Any alle­ga­tion of mis­treat­ment is investigated. 

In an update on 17 Feb­ru­ary, I advised that since 1 August 2010, 8 alle­ga­tions from 6 detainees, have been made and thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gat­ed. These alle­ga­tions were found to have had no sub­stance and were dismissed. 

Since pro­vid­ing the 17 Feb­ru­ary update, there has been a fur­ther alle­ga­tion of detainee mis­treat­ment against the ADF, which is cur­rent­ly being investigated. 

These alle­ga­tions and the out­come of the com­pre­hen­sive inves­ti­ga­tions are report­ed in full to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) and appro­pri­ate human­i­tar­i­an organisations. 

Team GlobDef

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