Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Questions without Notice


2:20 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator Brown for the question in my capacity representing the Minister for Defence. I have seen the reports in the press in the last few days about these matters and the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. All senators were shocked, I know, at the time at the terrible abuse and mistreatment that occurred in that centre, and it was the subject of much questioning in the Senate estimates process. Senator Faulkner and, I think, Senator Bishop and I spent a great deal of time—I think I was shadow defence minister at the time—questioning Defence officials about these matters. I think Senator Hill was the minister at the time. We attempted to get to the bottom of what Australia's involvement was in these matters. But I would point out that the key point here is that, in contrast to the arrangements in Afghanistan, the ADF did not act as the detaining power during joint operations in Iraq. We were not the detaining power. As you know, Senator—through you, Mr President—Australian personnel are required and trained to treat detainees humanely and with dignity and respect. My advice is that ADF personnel consistently acted in accordance with international and Australian domestic law on those detainee issues. In terms of Major George O'Kane's role in this matter, all I know is that he did provide situation reports which did not contain reference to incidents of abuse and that those reports were made through our reporting channels. I am not aware of any role in drafting regulations regarding treatment of detainees, but I again make the point that we were not the detaining power for those detainees.


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