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Thursday, 16 October 2003
Page: 21652

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Attorney-General. Can the Attorney-General confirm whether David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib have been tortured while in US custody at Guantanamo Bay, as claimed by Australian lawyer Richard Bourke on Wednesday? Further, is the Attorney-General aware of the comments made by the International Red Cross about their concerns over the treatment of such detainees? Will the Attorney-General inform the House of the steps his department is taking to establish the truth of these claims? If they are confirmed, what will the Attorney-General do about them?

Mr RUDDOCK (Attorney-General) —I am aware of some of the matters raised by the honourable member. The Red Cross visited Guantanamo Bay recently, and their report was unusual because it indicated they had some disagreement with the practice of ongoing detention of people in this circumstance. That is a matter about which this government has a different view, but they did raise that matter. In the context of torture, having only seen the prisoners in the last few weeks, the Red Cross gave no indication in their report that torture was evidenced.

Mr Brendan O'Connor —But they don't do that.

Mr RUDDOCK —They do not normally comment on other matters either, but they did on this occasion.

The SPEAKER —The member for Denison! The minister is responding to the question.

Mr RUDDOCK —The further point I would make is that I have seen reports from the President of the United States in which he said that he would not expect that agents operating on behalf of the United States would torture detainees. I have also seen the reports of Australian officials who have on a number of occasions visited Guantanamo Bay and seen both of the detainees. There were no reports to them of any torture. That is the background to the matter. I have seen the reports, and I have asked for inquiries to be made as to whether there have been any further developments.