Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Guantanamo Bay

4:30 pm

Photo of Lyn AllisonLyn Allison (Victoria, Australian Democrats) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Justice and Customs (Senator Ellison) to a question without notice asked by Senator Allison today relating to Guantanamo Bay.

I referred to Professor McCoy, who is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin and has just written a book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Professor McCoy has a great deal of experience in looking at the CIA, having written previously about their complicity in the global drug trade.

The minister’s response was that Australia has raised this with the United States, that it is not the fault of the Australian government that David Hicks has been there for 4½ years and that this was an appeal that was lodged that has nothing to do with us. In our view, the Australian government should have been much more active in getting David Hicks released back to Australia—as other countries have got their citizens released back to them—or seen that the United States got on with the business of having him face whatever trumped-up charges he faces, so that he can be released. This book illustrates the danger of being detained in a place like Guantanamo. In an interview given to Lateline this week as a result of his article in Monthly magazine, Professor McCoy said:

Guantanamo is not a conventional military prison. It’s an ad hoc laboratory for the perfection of the CIA psychological torture. Guantanamo is a complete construction. It’s a system of total psychological torture, designed to break down every detainee contained therein, designed to produce a state of hopelessness and despair that leads, tragically, sadly in this case to suicide. The statements by those American officials are indicative of the cruel mentality at Guantanamo.

He said:

The standard techniques used on countless detainees—blasted with sound, blasted with light, confined in the dark, short shackled, long shackled. Now, all of the techniques that the FBI describe and literally dozens of emails from Guantanamo are basically describing the two foundational techniques that are key to the CIA psychological torture paradigm.

Professor McCoy said that FBI officers reported that people were short-shackled on the floor for days at a time:

One detainee so desperate that overnight he pulled his hair out, hair by hair. Others covered in faeces, their own waste. Many detainees suffering signs of psychological breakdown. Another thing the FBI established very clearly is that these techniques were of course counter-productive. The FBI would often start interviews and after one of their subjects was subjected, for example, to a regime of strobe lights or blasting rock music, that when the FBI tried to conduct their next interview, the detainees were suddenly hostile and non-cooperative.

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They described detainees huddling, quivering, signs of extreme psychological stress. There is also the documented case of the famed detainee Rasul, who was subjected to these techniques of rock music, strobe lights, extreme isolation in a darkened cell for a period much less than David Hicks, by the way, and Rasul was so desperate to end this regime of treatment that shown a video of 40 Jihadists in Afghanistan seated beside Osama bin Laden, he falsely identified himself as one of the jihadists and it wasn’t until an agent of MI5 arrived from Guantanamo and established he had been a clerk in an electronics shop in the United Kingdom and not a jihadist in Afghanistan at the time he said he was that the US officers realised he’d given false information in order to end this harsh treatment.

That is the nature of torture, but our minister says we are doing as much as we possibly can, that we have sent in the consulate 16 times in 4½ years—that is fewer than four times a year, once a quarter. I do not know what they discovered when they visited David Hicks, but I think we can all guarantee, based on that advice from Professor McCoy, that he would not be in good spirits—I doubt anyone would be in good spirits even being held in a prison with perfect circumstances and facilities where people were not being tortured. It is hardly likely that he could be regarded as someone who was either well or in good spirits.

The answer given by the minister is not adequate. Australia needs to make urgent and determined representation to the United States government. We do not agree with torture. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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