Australia — Detainee Management in Afghanistan

Today I announce the details of Australia’s detainee man­age­ment frame­work in Afghanistan fol­low­ing the Dutch with­draw­al from Uruz­gan Province on 1 August 2010.
Until 1 August this year, Dutch forces took respon­si­bil­i­ty for detainees cap­tured by the Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF).
On 1 August, lead­er­ship in Uruz­gan Province passed from the Nether­lands to the multi­na­tion­al Com­bined Team-Uruz­gan. Inter­im arrange­ments on detainee man­age­ment were put in place at that time.

The Gov­ern­ment has now finalised with Afghan and Unit­ed States author­i­ties a com­pre­hen­sive detainee man­age­ment frame­work. It for­malis­es the inter­im arrange­ments in place since 1 August.

Get­ting Australia’s detainee man­age­ment arrange­ments right is 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 had two pri­or­i­ties in mind: 

  • First, the crit­i­cal need to remove insur­gents from the bat­tle­field, where they endan­ger Aus­tralian, Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and Afghan lives, and 
  • Sec­ond, 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, includ­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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 Kowt in Uruz­gan Province for a lim­it­ed amount of time. The screen­ing facil­i­ty is under con­stant cam­era sur­veil­lance and the facil­i­ty is open to reg­u­lar ICRC inspection. 

Detainees in the ADF’s cus­tody are able to freely prac­tice their reli­gion, and are pro­vid­ed access to exer­cise, sus­te­nance, 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. The US cur­rent­ly runs this facil­i­ty, but is aim­ing to tran­si­tion to Afghan con­trol, com­menc­ing next year.

When detainees are trans­ferred, the ADF pro­vides evi­dence packs to sup­port fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and pos­si­ble pros­e­cu­tion under Afghan law.

Since 1 August 2010 to 12 Decem­ber 2010, Aus­tralia has appre­hend­ed 348 detainees. Of these, 64 have been trans­ferred to Afghan or US author­i­ties. The remain­der have been released fol­low­ing ini­tial screening. 

Aus­tralian offi­cials, both ADF and offi­cials from the Depart­ment of For­eign Affairs and Trade, con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor 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. 

I will con­tin­ue to pro­vide reg­u­lar updates, includ­ing to the Par­lia­ment, on devel­op­ments in Afghanistan. 

The oper­a­tion in prac­tice of our detainee man­age­ment frame­work in prac­tice will form part of these reg­u­lar updates.

The new arrange­ments will be for­malised by the Chief of the Defence Force with a Direc­tive which will align our ADF oper­a­tions in Afghanistan with this policy. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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