Australian Department of Defence: Update on Afghanistan Detainee Management

Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Australian Department of Defence
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.