Chapter 1 - Introduction
Background to the inquiry
Toward the end of April 2004, reports began to emerge worldwide
about the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees by US personnel. During the first
week of May, the publication of graphic photographs purporting to show the
abuse of prisoners gave substance to the reports as did media accounts of mistreatment
drawn largely from a leaked Pentagon report by Major General Antonio
The photographs and the leaked report indicated that systematic and illegal abuse
of Iraqi detainees had occurred between October and December 2003 including
numerous instances of 'sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses'.
On 7 May
2004, Amnesty International issued a statement that it had
'presented consistent allegations of brutality and cruelty by US agents against
detainees at the highest levels of the US Government, including the White
House, the Department of Defense, and the State Department for the past two
years'. At about the same time, it
became widely known that the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been investigating the detainment of Iraqi
prisoners and had complained in a report to US authorities about their ill–treatment.
Such reports generated much speculation about US authorities and their awareness
of, and response to, the allegations.
similar questions were being raised about whether government officials had
known of the allegations and, if so, what actions had been taken. On 11 May 2004, the Minister for Defence told the Senate
that the Department of Defence had become aware of:
- allegations of abuse about 20 or 21 January 2004
through a CNN Report that made reference to an investigation being carried out
by the Pentagon;
- the ICRC report on detainment practices in Iraq
in February 2004; and
- the photographs of prisoners when they were made
public in late April/early May 2004.
On 27 May 2004,
however, the Australian media carried reports that an Australian military
officer stationed in Baghdad, Major
had been aware of allegations of prisoner abuse as early as October 2003 and
that he had passed on details to Australian officials in regular reports. These revelations sparked another round
of questions seeking clarification about who knew about the allegations of mistreatment
of Iraqi prisoners, when they knew and whether they reported them.
The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Legislation Committee devoted much of its examination
during the budget estimates hearings in May 2004 to the matter of the duties of
Australian personnel in Iraq
particularly with regard to the treatment of Iraqi detainees.
Since then, the matter of the treatment of Iraqi
prisoners has not been far from public notice and one likely to ignite lively
public debate. Indeed, on 14 February
2005, the matter once again became headline news when Mr
an Australian senior specialist advisor to the head of the Iraqi Survey Group, stated
on national television that he had interrogated Iraqi detainees. This assertion
appeared to contradict a statement by the Minister for Defence that Australians
did not interrogate prisoners. He also
expressed concern about the objectivity of the work he was engaged to do in Iraq
with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) that was to report on WMDs in Iraq.
The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Legislation Committee examined the matters
raised by Mr Barton
during its public hearings on additional estimates on 16 and 17 February 2005. Detailed questions were put
to Defence and the Minister about the work of the ISG and the duties of
Australians working with this group, the various meetings that officials had
with Mr Barton on his return to Australia and the survey conducted by Defence
of personnel who had information about the treatment of Iraqi detainees.
Establishment of the inquiry
To pursue the matter further, the Senate, on 8 March 2005, referred the following
matters to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
for inquiry and report by 21 June 2005:
- whether any Australian personnel (including employees,
contractors and consultants) were present, or had duties which included being
present, during any interrogations or interviews (however defined) of persons
detained in relation to the war in Iraq, and in particular those persons suspected
of having knowledge of Iraq’s
weapons of mass destruction;
- whether any knowledge of, or concerns regarding, the
treatment of those Iraqi detainees was provided to Australian Government
departments, agencies and ministers, and what actions resulted from the
provision of this information;
- whether the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) were able to report
frankly and fearlessly on what they had found, or whether attempts were made to
censor or otherwise distort their findings; and
- whether any Australian personnel provided information
or concerns to any part of the Australian Government relating to concerns about
the functions or reports of the ISG, and what actions resulted from the
provision of this information.
On 21 June 2005,
the Senate granted an extension to the inquiry's reporting date to
9 August and then on that day granted a further extension to 18 August 2005.
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry in the Canberra Times on 12 March, in The Australian
on 16 and 30 March 2005
and on its website. It took evidence from Mr
at a public hearing on 29 March in Parliament House, Canberra.
The transcript of evidence is available on the web site.
Structure of the report
The report comprises four chapters—an introduction and
three chapters that directly address the terms of reference.
The committee is grateful to, and wishes to thank, all
those who assisted with its inquiry.
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