The Australian Government has consistently maintained that Australian military personnel had no involvement in the detention of captives in Iraq. However, documents obtained by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) make it clear that Australia was deeply entangled in the capture and detention of Iraqis.
The documents obtained by PIAC also show that Australia deliberately sought to avoid its obligations under the Geneva Conventions towards these Iraqi prisoners.
A US field report obtained by PIAC refers to a secret detention facility, called H1, in the middle of the Iraqi desert.
The report confirms that Australian special forces worked closely with American and British military personnel in the capture and transport of more than 60 Iraqi prisoners to H1 on 11 April 2003. Prior to their transfer to H1, the prisoners had sandbags placed over their heads and their hands were zip-tied. One of the prisoners, Tanik Mahmud, died en route, “cause of death unknown”.
The US field report states that “three Coalition elements” were involved in the capture and transport of so-called enemy prisoners of war.
The report names these three Coalition elements as: “Task Force 64, the Australian special forces task group under the tactical control of this headquarters; Task Force 14, the British special forces task group, also under the tactical control of this headquarters; and Task Force Seminole, the US Army civil-military affairs task group.”
The US field report, signed by a US army Major, notes that the Australian forces were accompanied by one US Air Force Special Tactics Squadron member.
“Under the circumstances, some doubt exists as to which party is the Detaining Power for purposes of responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions,” the report notes.
The report went on to state: “The tri-partite agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, dated 23 March 03, provides that in such circumstances, all parties will be jointly responsible until the Detaining Power has by mutual agreement been determined.”
PIAC understands that Task Force 64 was the codename for a squadron of 150 Australian SAS troops who played a key role in operations in Iraq.
Documents obtained by PIAC under Freedom of Information laws have established that on 11 April 2003, 20 members of the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) captured 66 Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian men who were driving through the western desert of Iraq. The SAS held the men for ten hours before they were transported to the H1 facility.
Source: Public Interest Advocacy Centre