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Australia as an occupying power in Iraq: what are the implications?

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Senator Chris Evans Labor Senator for Western Australia Shadow Minister for Defence

10 April 2003


John Howard today confirmed that Australia, along with the US and UK, would form a coalition transitional authority to govern Iraq.

The Howard Government should immediately acknowledge its obligations under the Geneva Conventions and explain what resources and costs Australia will have to bear in meeting these obligations.

While Australia will join the US and UK in the interim administration of Iraq, only Australia and the UK are parties to the Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, which imposes specific and additional responsibilities on occupying powers.

As a party to the Additional Protocol, Australia, as an occupying power in Iraq, has a direct responsibility to ensure the provision of clothing, shelter and food to the population.

Article 69 of the Protocol specifies the necessities of life that an Occupying Power must provide to the civilian population in the territory it occupies.

Under the Protocol, Australia has an obligation to provide these necessities of life, not simply facilitate agencies in delivering them.

The US is not a party to this Protocol and therefore has no obligation to provide clothing and shelter to the Iraqi population.

Today John Howard also signalled that Defence personnel already in the Gulf may be required to stay on after the conflict. This is in direct response to US comments that the SAS would be needed for some time in mopping up pockets of resistance.

Labor is concerned that the Government is softening up Australians for a long-term military commitment to Iraq.

In the absence of a request from the UN, the Howard Government should fulfil its earlier promise and immediately commit to bringing our troops home at the end of the war.

For comment: Chris Evans 0419 983 593 Tim Friedrich 0408 577 617