The Minister for Defence today welcomed the release of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Report on the treatment of detainees in Afghan custody.
The UNAMA report raises serious concerns about the torture and mistreatment of detainees in a number of National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Afghan National Police (ANP) detention facilities across Afghanistan.
This includes the ANP facility in Uruzgan. Afghan detainees have not been transferred to this facility by the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
“I welcome UNAMA’s finding that detainee mistreatment is neither institutional nor Afghan Government policy”, Mr Smith said.
“The UNAMA Report does however indicate that the mistreatment of detainees may be practiced systemically at a number of detention facilities.”
The cooperation of Afghan authorities with UNAMA’s detention monitoring program is welcome, as are the remedial actions and corrective and preventive measures Afghan authorities have announced and put in place in response to the UNAMA Report.
These include launching their own investigations, reassigning personnel where appropriate and suspending responsible individuals ahead of possible legal action.
Australia takes the issue of detainee management very seriously and continues to make clear its commitment to open and transparent detainee arrangements in support of ADF operations in Afghanistan.
Australia has a robust framework for detainee management in Afghanistan which accords with Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations.
In line with the UNAMA Report’s recommendations, Australian officials and humanitarian organisations already regularly monitor detainees transferred by the ADF.
Until 1 August 2010, Dutch forces took responsibility for detainees captured by the ADF.
On 1 August 2010, leadership in Uruzgan Province passed from the Netherlands to the multinational Combined Team-Uruzgan.
Australia subsequently put in place a comprehensive detainee management framework with the United States and Afghan authorities. This was announced on 14 December 2010.
Once initial screening is complete, detainees are transferred either to Afghan or United States custody, or released if there is insufficient evidence to pursue prosecution.
Under the framework, detainees assessed as posing a less serious threat are transferred to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Uruzgan. Those assessed as posing a serious threat are transferred to the US-run detention facility in Parwan Province. The NDS facility in Uruzgan is not one of the NDS facilities subject to criticism and concern in the UNAMA Report.
Australian officials, both from Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), continue to monitor detainees’ welfare and condition while they are in US or Afghan custody, until they are released or sentenced.
This monitoring is underpinned by formal arrangements with Afghanistan and the United States, which include assurances on the humane treatment of detainees and free access by Australian officials and NGOs. Any allegation of mistreatment is investigated.
“The UNAMA report does not refer to any evidence of detainee mistreatment at the NDS facility in Uruzgan, where Australian-apprehended detainees are transferred”, Mr Smith said.
“While the ANP Headquarters in Uruzgan is listed as a facility of concern, Australian-apprehended detainees have not been and are not transferred to ANP facilities in Uruzgan”, Mr Smith said.
The UNAMA report notes that in early July 2011, the United States and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces stopped transferring detainees to NDS and ANP authorities in southern Afghanistan. This decision was based on reports of a practice of torture and mistreatment of detainees in NDS and ANP detention facilities in the south.
At ISAF’s request, Australia suspended the transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities at this time. While ISAF’s concerns did not expressly relate to the NDS facility in Tarin Kot where ADF-apprehended detainees were transferred, in view of the importance of a unified ISAF approach to detainee management issues, Australia responded positively to the ISAF request.
Australia has maintained the suspension of transfers to the NDS facility in Tarin Kot, pending consideration of the UNAMA Report, which will now occur. The outcome of this consideration will be announced in due course.
ISAF has already begun implementing a six-part plan of remedial measures. The ISAF six-part plan includes facility inspection, remediation training in human rights and detainee treatment, formal certification by the Commander ISAF, supporting accountability actions taken by the Afghan Government, monitoring detainees over the long-term, and facilitating transparency and communication among ISAF and Afghan Government detention operations.
Australia will continue to work with our Afghan and international partners, including the United Nations, to ensure Afghan detainees receive the appropriate treatment consistent with domestic and international law.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392 or Ellen Shields (02) 6277 7800 or 0400 347 473
Department: (02) 6127 1999