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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 15015

Mr Murphy asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 March 2003:

(1) Is the Minister aware that some media organisations have shown images of prisoners of war in the course of covering the war in Iraq.

(2) Is it the case that Article 13 of the Geneva Convention III states that prisoners of war must at all times be “protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity”.

(3) Is it also the case that Article 27 of the Geneva Convention IV has the same provisions for civilian prisoners and includes restrictions of photographing and filming military and civilian prisoners of war.

(4) Has the Minister provided any advice or direction to public or private media organisations regarding Article 13 of the Geneva Convention III or Article 27 of Geneva Convention IV; if so; what was that advice; if not, why not.

(5) Can the Minister guarantee that Coalition forces will treat all captives humanely and in compliance with the laws governing armed conflict; if not, why not.

Mrs Vale (Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) Yes.

(2) Yes.

(3) In relation to civilians, Article 27 can be interpreted in the manner suggested in the question.

(4) The broadcasting of images of the conflict is at the discretion of media outlets. The Department of Defence has requested public and private media outlets to remain cognisant of the terms of Geneva Conventions and to conceal the identity of prisoners of war from both sides of the conflict.

(5) The Coalition force continues to treat prisoners of war humanely. Australia is a party to the Geneva Conventions and strongly supports them. The Australian Defence Force elements in Iraq operate under Australian national command and according to Australian rules of engagement which mandate compliance with the laws of armed conflict to which Australia is bound.