Today I announce that Australia will resume the transfer of ADF-apprehended detainees to Afghan custody at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Uruzgan.
This decision follows extensive consultation with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) partners and Afghan Government officials.
As previously announced, Australia suspended the transfer of detainees to the NDS in Uruzgan in early July 2011 in response to concerns raised by ISAF about the treatment of detainees in southern Afghanistan. While ISAF’s concerns did not relate to any allegations of detainee mistreatment against the NDS in Tarin Kot, Australia supported a unified ISAF approach in suspending detainee transfers.
Australia’s decision to resume detainee transfers to the NDS in Uruzgan follows the release of a UNAMA report into the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees on 10 October 2011. The report raised serious concerns of detainee mistreatment at a number of NDS and Afghan National Police (ANP) facilities but found no evidence of detainee mistreatment by the NDS in Uruzgan.
Australia has a very robust framework for detainee management in Afghanistan, which accords with our domestic and international legal obligations, and we take our responsibilities for the humane treatment of detainees very seriously.
Australia’s detainee monitoring team conducts regular visits to monitor the welfare of all ADF-apprehended detainees transferred to Afghan or United States custody until the point of release or sentencing. The frequency of the monitoring effort will be temporarily increased following the resumption of transfers to help ensure that detainees transferred to Afghan custody are treated humanely.
Australia’s detainee monitoring team will continue to work closely with Afghan authorities and security forces to provide mentoring and guidance in detainee management and handling practices.
Today I also announce that the Government has authorised a team of Australian military interrogators to be deployed to Afghanistan in preparation for the next northern fighting season.
The interrogation of detainees is a capability used by other ISAF partners.
The capacity to interrogate will allow the ADF to play a larger role in the collection of information against the insurgency in Afghanistan.
Interrogation has proven valuable in detecting and preventing insurgent activity. Interrogation can assist us in obtaining the information that we need to unravel insurgent networks and prevent the harm they intend for our soldiers, our ISAF partners and the local Afghan population.
In addition to the deployment of an interrogation team, the Australian Government has decided that the length of time for which detainees can be held in our Australian Initial Screening Area may be extended beyond the current 96 hours for an additional three days, with a possible further extension of three days.
This approach is consistent with the interrogation timelines of other 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.
ADF Interrogators are highly trained and ethical professionals. Their duties in Afghanistan will be in accordance with approved techniques, consistent with Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations.
Physical or mental mistreatment has no place in interrogation: interrogation is an extended questioning process conducted by trained professionals within strict guidelines.
These expanded arrangements will help ensure Australian forces have a larger, more accurate understanding of the insurgency, improve the protection afforded to our military and civilian personnel and assist the achievement of our objectives in Afghanistan.
In line with the Government’s strong commitment to openness and transparency, regular updates will continue to be provided on Australia’s detainee arrangements, including this interrogation capability.
Andrew Porter 02 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Ellen Shields 02 6277 7800 or 0400 347 473