In November 2011, I announced that the Australian Government had approved the deployment of trained interrogators to Afghanistan to question detainees apprehended during operations by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and identified as suitable for interrogation.
Today I announce that this capability has deployed to Afghanistan and will commence activities shortly.
The deployment of this capability will enable the ADF to play a greater role in the collection of vital information, and will support the protection of Australian and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel and the local population. It will also assist in the potential prosecution of detainees through the Afghan justice system.
Interrogation is a comprehensive questioning process which is aimed at collecting intelligence. It is conducted within strict legal guidelines to prevent physical and mental mistreatment.
ADF interrogators are highly-trained and ethical professionals. Their duties in Afghanistan will be in accordance with stringent guidelines and will strictly comply with Australian international and domestic legal obligations. It will be limited to approved methods.
In support of this capability, I also announced in November that the Government had agreed to extend the time selected detainees could be held in Australian custody at the Initial Screening Area in Tarin Kot, prior to their release or transfer, for the purposes of comprehensive screening. This will allow the ADF more time to determine whether an individual should be released or transferred, or has knowledge which could assist the ADF and our ISAF and Afghan partners.
The length of time for which detainees can be held in the Initial Screening Area may be extended beyond the current 96 hours (4 days) for an additional three days, and a possible further extension of three days.
This approach is consistent with the interrogation timelines of our ISAF partners.
While 96 hours is appropriate for our previous role in basic screening, a longer period of time may be required for more complex questioning of detainees of interest.
Only detainees who are assessed by intelligence professionals as potentially having information that would make a material difference to the safety of ISAF personnel and the local population will be held beyond 96 hours.
Australia will continue, within the current ISAF-mandated timeframe of 96 hours, to establish whether a detainee should be released, transferred or be detained for a longer period.
If sufficient evidence is available, detainees may be transferred to the custody of the Afghan National Directorate of Security at Tarin Kot or to the US-run Detention Facility in Parwan. Detainees are released if there is insufficient evidence to link them to the insurgency.
Physical or mental mistreatment will have no place in this interrogation.
Under Australia’s detainee management framework, the ADF screens and questions detainees in a purpose-built facility, which is open to inspection by humanitarian organisations.
A monitoring team of Australian officials regularly visits transferred detainees to monitor their welfare and standards of treatment.
The proposed interrogation of ADF-apprehended detainees has seen the installation of a new Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system. This new CCTV system replaces the existing system within the Initial Screening Area, and has been designed and purpose-built to support the conduct of the interrogation and questioning of detainees.
The new system has been upgraded to include a greater number of cameras and improved redundancy measures to ensure that all interrogation sessions are monitored. The recording and monitoring of these sessions will support the ADF and the Government’s commitment to transparency on detainee management issues in Afghanistan.
I will continue to provide regular public updates on detainee management matters and this interrogation capability including as part of my regular reporting to Parliament on Afghanistan.
Australia takes its responsibilities for detainee management seriously, and ensures that detainees in Australian custody are treated humanely, with dignity and respect, in accordance with our international and domestic legal obligations.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Department of Defence: (02) 6127 1999