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Thursday, 10 May 2007
Page: 171

Mr Melham asked the Attorney-General, in writing, on 26 February 2007:

In respect of his response to question No. 2079 (Hansard, 10 October 2005, page 165), (a) is it the position of the Government that any of the following interrogation techniques constitute torture:

(i)   extended sleep deprivation; (ii) exposure to extreme cold for extended periods; and/or

(iii)   immobilising a person and pouring water on his or her face to simulate drowning and (b) does the Australian Government have any knowledge of the use of these techniques by United States Government personnel engaged in the interrogation of persons suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.

Mr Ruddock (Attorney-General) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(a)   The Australian Government does not condone torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are prohibited under international law. This prohibition is found in Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Australia is a party. The application of the term ‘torture’ to a specific case will always depend on the particular circumstances of the case in question, including the impact on the individual of the conduct alleged to constitute torture. Whether any of the interrogation techniques referred to in parts (i)-(iii) of Question (a) will constitute torture depends on whether they fall within the definition of torture in international law, which is provided in Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), to which Australia is a party. Generally, torture is understood to mean an act by a public official or other person acting in an official capacity, specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering, for particular purposes, such as for obtaining information or for punishment. The definition makes clear that several elements must exist for an action to constitute torture. Torture does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

(b)   The US Administration confirmed in February 2005 that none of these techniques were used in relation to Mr Hicks or Mr Habib.