MAPW: Australian troops must obey international law

MAPW has expressed concern at evidence that Australia deliberately tried to avoid its human rights obligations under the Geneva Convention in Iraq and Afghanistan. MAPW has issued a media release supporting the call for a Royal Commission made by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre indicate that a US soldier was always present with ADF troops to take legal responsibility for their capture, as the US maintained that the Geneva Convention did not apply in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. This legal fiction permitted Australian troops to assist for example with transfer of prisoners to secret detention camps which contravene the Convention.
In the release, MAPW Vice President Dr Sue Wareham OAM, says:
“We urge the government to adopt policies and procedures to guarantee that Australia complies with both the letter and spirit of international law in relation to the detention and treatment of captives.”
Of equal concern is the apparent intention to mislead the Australian public, as Australia had publicly stated that we would comply with international humanitarian law in Iraq and Afghanistan.
MAPW has already called for an independent public inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war, including whether this has contravened any Australian or international laws or treaties.
KEY SOURCES
  1. 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 according to evidence obtained under Freedom of Information by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
     
  2.  The Guardian, who were researching the deaith of a prisoner aboard a UK helicopter which picked up the prisoners, runs a long feature on this story. 20 Australian SAS and one US military person captured 64 prisoners at a roadblock in 2003.  "As a result of what might be described as a legal sleight of hand, the men were never recorded as prisoners of the 20 Australians. On paper, at least, the lone Americani was said to have captured them."
     
  3.  AM this morning also ran a detailed story, with the PIAC calling for a royal commission.
    "We need to do something, we need to establish a royal commission to get to the bottom of these allegations and determine Australia's compliance or otherwise with the Geneva Convention." - Edward Santow, PIAC head.
  • Read the full MAPW media release
     
  • The Australia Defence Association's Neil James (normally sympathetic to the ADF) has said on the ABC's The World Today, 9 February: "You can't avoid your responsibilities under the Geneva Convention that way and [we said then] it would eventually backfire on us and with these latest allegations, this looks like part of the backfire. And the ideai that people captured by the Australians weren't actually captured by the Australians was a nonsense then and it's a nonsense now."