Sources with first-hand knowledge of the detention centre at Tarin Kowt have said that senior officers from Australia’s special forces, as well as the “force exploitation team” – defence intelligence – and the mentoring taskforce, pressed the detention management team to “condition” suspected insurgents before interrogation.
A source said the pressure was “strongly resisted” by the detention management team and the gagging and other techniques were not carried out.
The account by multiple sources is among a number of claims that contrast with assurances this week from Defence Minister Stephen Smith that Australia “approaches its responsibility for treating detainees with dignity and respect with the utmost seriousness”.
Other claims included:
A young male detainee who was deaf mute and possibly intellectually disabled was held in the centre because of pressure from the Special Operations Task Group, despite concerns from medical staff that he was not fit to be detained.
A senior Afghan intelligence officer, a Colonel Hanif, complained vigorously that detainees were being transferred from Australian to Afghan custody on scant evidence that they were insurgents.
The Defence Force denied a teenage boy access to his dying father, a suspected insurgent who had been shot in a battle with Australians. The boy was allegedly turned over to US interrogators, though the ADF denies this.
The claims relate to 2010 and 2011, after Australia took responsibility for managing detainees in Oruzgan province from the withdrawn Dutch troops.
In a detailed statement to Parliament on Thursday, Mr Smith said Australia took all claims of detainee mistreatment seriously. He said 1898 suspects had been detained between August 2010 and May 15 this year.
During the same period, there had been 198 allegations of mistreatment by the ADF. Of these, 193 had been deemed unfounded and five were under review.
But Fairfax Media has been told that in the first year Australia was running the detention system, tensions flared between the military police who managed the detainees and the forces who captured and interrogated them.
One source said: “We had two very conflicting sets of guidelines: one was to treat them humanely but the other was the pressure from the SOTG and intelligence guys who wanted us to condition them in such a way as to make them more pliable … so their state of mind was conducive to interrogation.
“They wanted us to gag and hood the detainees to stop them from talking to each other.
“The [detention centre’s commanding officer] fought that, hand over foot, saying ‘If we gag and hood these guys, someone will die’.”
Fairfax Media has been told the Special Operations Task Group stonewalled over an investigation into a prisoner who had been brought in with a bloody nose, bruised forehead and black eye. An initial assessment found he had tried to grab a gun from an Australian soldier.
Documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws reveal the investigation by the ADF Investigative Service went on for nearly a year. Sources said the service was forced to complain to the Chief of the Defence Force, David Hurley, because SOTG had not provided any evidence despite repeated requests by the investigative service. It is unclear whether the evidence was ever provided. Fairfax Media is awaiting responses from the Defence Department.
Edward Santow, chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, which obtained the FOI documents, said sleep and sensory deprivation could constitute torture under international law, depending on how they were used.
Australian National University law professor Don Rothwell said views were divided on whether sleep deprivation was torture.Source: The Border Mail – Military police pressured to make prisoners more “pliable”
- Many Afghans held by Australian troops are falsely accused (craighill.net)
- ADF ‘pressured’ to mistreat Afghans held at Tarin Kowt (theage.com.au)
- Prisoners ‘gagged, deprived’ to make them pliable (smh.com.au)
- Police told to make prisoners ‘pliable’ (theage.com.au)
- Military police pressured to make prisoners more ‘pliable’ (smh.com.au)
- Australia halts transfers to Afghan jail (news.com.au)
- Australia halts transfers to Afghan jail (news.theage.com.au)
- Troops ‘humiliated’ detainees (smh.com.au)
- Afghan detainees ‘humiliated in jail’ (theage.com.au)
- Australia ceases transfer of detainees to Afghan jail (nst.com.my)
- Blurred lines mar Afghanistan mission (smh.com.au)