Newly released documents show extent of Australia involvement in Abu Ghraib

[JURIST] Australia played a larger role than previously thought in the abuses of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] in Iraq, according to Australia Defense Force (ADF) [official website] documents obtained by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre [advocacy website] through freedom of information laws. The documents [text] show that Major George O'Kane worked closely with US authorities as a military lawyer and helped author the manual for processing prisoners. He also advised on the legality of interrogation methods and denied the Red Cross access to prisoners deemed by the US as "high value detainees." One document shows the O'Kane was part of the mission "Operation Eel" involving the transfer of a high-value detainee from a US warship to Abu Ghraib. The mission's timing was significant [Sydney Morning Herald report] because it coincided with the capture of Saddam Hussein. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has called for a full government inquiry into Australia's involvement in the abuse and detention of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Last month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] initiated a grand jury investigation into the torture and death of Manadel Al-Jamadi, a detainee at Abu Ghraib. In 2006, Australian television published additional photographs [JURIST report] and video depicting abuse of prisoners by US personnel at Abu Ghraib. The photographs drew criticism from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website], which said they showed clear violations of international humanitarian law. The Red Cross had previously criticized US practices at Abu Ghraib, saying that in some instances the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was "tantamount to torture" [ICRC report, PDF; JURIST report]. The original Abu Ghraib photographs led to the jailing of several US soldiers including Charles Graner [JURIST report], who appears in some of the new images, and Lynndie England [JURIST news archive]. The Australian producer of SBS television's Dateline program defended the decision to broadcast the photographs [AFP report] and videos. Mike Carey dismissed criticism from the Pentagon that the pictures could increase the danger to American soldiers, saying that his team, as journalists, had a responsibility to air the images.

 

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