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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21559


Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (9:40 AM) —This morning, I would like to raise some concerns that I have about the alleged treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. There have been allegations that those detainees are being tortured and, if this is true, that would be a breach of the international conventions against torture. I also wish to raise in this place some concerns that were put by international judges and lawyers last Friday when they condemned US treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as a violation of international law. Justice Richard Goldstone, a judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and former chief prosecutor of international tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, said in a speech in Washington that there had been dozens of suicide attempts at Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners deemed enemy combatants are being held indefinitely outside US territory. He went on to say:

The law just doesn't accept black holes. If they're prisoners of war they've got rights under the Geneva convention. If they're civilians they've got rights under the domestic laws of the US.

Those issues are of concern to me, particularly in times of international terror, because it is important that democratic nations are vigilant in upholding the principles of natural justice and the tenets of democracy. We are judged by the way we treat detainees. Indeed, the United States as a nation will be judged by the way it treats its detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I think, therefore, it is important to note those claims that have been made and ensure that those claims are not true or, if they are true, ensure that something is done to rectify the matter.

I would also like to make reference to the Red Cross, which is the only organisation that has had access to those detainees. It is an organisation that rarely speaks out, because of the conditions upon which they are able to gain access to such detainees, but they also have indicated that there is a worrying deterioration in the mental health of detainees and have raised concerns about certain breaches of international covenants. Again, I say that there are a number of critics of the way in which the United States is dealing with this matter.

Finally, I want to quickly mention the former military officers, federal judges and diplomats of the United States, including two former World War II prisoners of war who have indicated their concerns about the treatment. They have said in their brief that ignoring the Geneva conventions in Guantanamo Bay will give other nations an excuse to do the same and will endanger American soldiers captured in the future. I think America should take note of its former war heroes.