Minister for Defence Stephen Smith — Update: Afghanistan Detainee Management

Last Decem­ber I announced the details of Australia’s detainee man­age­ment frame­work in Afghanistan fol­low­ing the Dutch with­draw­al from Uruz­gan Province on 1 August 2010.
At the same time, I com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing reg­u­lar updates on devel­op­ments in detainee man­age­ment in Afghanistan.

Aus­tralia takes its respon­si­bil­i­ties for the humane treat­ment of detainees seri­ous­ly. Australia’s detainee man­age­ment frame­work draws on applic­a­ble inter­na­tion­al stan­dards and is con­sis­tent with inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an and human rights law, as well as Aus­tralian domes­tic law.

Under the detainee man­age­ment frame­work, detainees appre­hend­ed by the Aus­tralian Defence Force (ADF) are trans­ferred either to Afghan or Unit­ed States cus­tody, or released if there is insuf­fi­cient evi­dence to jus­ti­fy ongo­ing deten­tion.

From 1 August 2010 to 13 Feb­ru­ary 2011, Aus­tralia appre­hend­ed 425 detainees. Of these, 80 have been trans­ferred to Afghan or Unit­ed States author­i­ties. The remain­der have been released fol­low­ing ini­tial screen­ing.

Aus­tralia has in place arrange­ments with the Gov­ern­ments of Afghanistan and the Unit­ed States to gov­ern all detainee trans­fers, which include assur­ances on the humane treat­ment of detainees and access to those detainees by Aus­tralian offi­cials and human­i­tar­i­an organ­i­sa­tions to mon­i­tor their ongo­ing wel­fare.

Australia’s detainee mon­i­tor­ing teams mon­i­tor the wel­fare and deten­tion con­di­tions of ADF-appre­hend­ed detainees while they are in Unit­ed States or Afghan cus­tody until they are either released or sen­tenced. The mon­i­tor­ing team vis­its each ADF-appre­hend­ed detainee short­ly after trans­fer and approx­i­mate­ly every four weeks after the ini­tial vis­it.

All alle­ga­tions of mis­treat­ment against ADF-appre­hend­ed detainees are ful­ly inves­ti­gat­ed.

Since 1 August 2010, 8 alle­ga­tions (from 6 detainees), have been made and thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gat­ed. These alle­ga­tions have been found to have had no sub­stance and have been dis­missed. Since 1 Jan­u­ary 2011 one alle­ga­tion has been made . The alle­ga­tion was thor­ough­ly inves­ti­gat­ed and found to have had no sub­stance and has been dis­missed. These alle­ga­tions and the out­come of the com­pre­hen­sive inves­ti­ga­tions is report­ed in full to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) and appro­pri­ate human­i­tar­i­an organ­i­sa­tions.

In keep­ing with the com­mit­ment to be open and trans­par­ent on detainee man­age­ment mat­ters, I also advise that, in late Jan­u­ary, the Aus­tralian Defence Force Inves­tiga­tive Ser­vice (ADFIS) ini­ti­at­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion into alle­ga­tions made by a Defence mem­ber that mem­bers of the Deten­tion Man­age­ment Team in Afghanistan, respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing the ADF detainee screen­ing facil­i­ty at Multi­na­tion­al Base-Tarin Kot, may not have com­plied with pro­ce­dures relat­ing to the man­age­ment and admin­is­tra­tive pro­cess­ing of detainees.

These alle­ga­tions have been and are being tak­en very seri­ous­ly and a full inves­ti­ga­tion by ADFIS is under­way.

I will make the results of the inves­ti­ga­tion pub­lic in due course.

In report­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion to me, the act­ing Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) also advised that some fail­ures of the CCTV record­ing sys­tem, which oper­ates at the ADF screen­ing facil­i­ty, had been iden­ti­fied.

The ADF is address­ing this seri­ous CCTV issue and has begun to put in place pro­ce­dures to resolve the mat­ter, includ­ing imme­di­ate action to ensure con­tin­u­ous footage is being record­ed and archived.

The CDF will report the out­comes of this action to me in the near future.

Not only is Aus­tralia com­mit­ted to hold­ing our own per­son­nel to the high­est stan­dards on detainee man­age­ment, if ADF per­son­nel become aware of con­cerns regard­ing the treat­ment of detainees by our Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) or Afghan part­ners, we also treat this with the utmost seri­ous­ness.

In this respect, I advise that, in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary, Aus­tralian sol­diers wit­nessed an inci­dent that occurred dur­ing an Afghan deten­tion oper­a­tion in Uruz­gan Province.

At the time of the inci­dent, Aus­tralian sol­diers were oper­at­ing some dis­tance from Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces.

Aus­tralia has raised the mat­ter with the Afghan Gov­ern­ment and ISAF and asked that the mat­ter be ful­ly inves­ti­gat­ed. ISAF Joint Com­mand will par­tic­i­pate in an inves­ti­ga­tion led by the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces.

As well, I under­took to pro­vide details on the num­bers of detainees who have been cap­tured, released and sub­se­quent­ly recap­tured by Aus­tralian forces.

Since 1 August 2010, I am advised the ADF have cap­tured four peo­ple who were sub­se­quent­ly released, then recap­tured.

The ADF does not con­tin­ue to detain peo­ple if there is a lack of evi­dence which shows that deten­tion is jus­ti­fied.

Three of the indi­vid­u­als in ques­tion were released on both occa­sions as there was insuf­fi­cient evi­dence to war­rant their con­tin­ued deten­tion.

In the case of the fourth 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.

I will con­tin­ue to pro­vide reg­u­lar updates, includ­ing to Par­lia­ment, on detainee man­age­ment mat­ters in Afghanistan.

Media Con­tact
Mr Smith’s Office: Mary Bag­nall (02) 6277 7800 or 0434 665 067
Depart­ment: (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

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

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter