In 2013, after 5 years of legal wrangling, PIAC obtained a number of previously classified and confidential documents relating to Australia’s involvement in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and the treatment of prisoners.
The documents reveal that the Australian Government deliberately tried to avoid its obligations under international law in relation to detainees caught by the Australia Defence Force in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Australia’s actions had disastrous consequences.
The documents reveal that an Iranian man, Tanik Mahmud, died in custody. He was captured by Australian SAS troops in Western Iraq and transferred to UK custody. There is strong evidence suggesting that Mr Mahmud was fatally assaulted by UK RAF troops. The UK and Australian governments have refused to release the full details surrounding the death.
The Australian Government had prior knowledge of illegal detention practices in Iraq, including at Abu Ghraib prison. This included hiding prisoners from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and obstructing the ICRC’s access to prisoners. An Australian military lawyer advised on US interrogation techniques and concluded they were open to abuse.
The Australian Government failed to raise concerns about US breaches of international law with its ally. This suggests some level of complicity on behalf of the Australian Government.
The Australian Government misled Parliament and deliberately withheld important information from the Australian public relating to detainee mistreatment in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The documents obtained by PIAC raise serious questions about the functioning of the ADF and Department of Defence. Australia was ill-prepared for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, with no policy on what to do with detainees.
Key information about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to be withheld.