22 June 2004

Hill won't release abuse dossier for risk of offending US

The Federal Government has refused to make public a detailed 61-page dossier outlining what Australians knew about prisoner abuse in Iraq, with the Minister for Defence, Robert Hill, claiming some details would offend the US.

Senator Hill was yesterday censured in the Senate for his role in misleading Parliament and his failure to take responsibility for the false statements made by him, the Prime Minister and senior Defence officials.

Senator Hill had been asked why he chose to make a 5 page correcting statement when Defence had given him the comprehensive report plus nine large folders of supporting documents.

'The so-called [61-page] report ... was a brief to me,' he said. 'It is not the practice of this Government or previous governments to table its briefs,' he said, adding that Parliament had been 'fully informed'.

Among the material was a scathing assessment of US detention practices, in the form of a situation report, written by Australian military lawyer Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Muggleton, who was stationed with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

Senator Hill said Colonel Muggleton's situation report was not released 'because I did not think it was in the best interests of our relationship with the US'.

A government that is basing its claim for re-election (among other things) on White House support is declining to embarrass its political ally. Diplomatic manoeuvres are not n exception to Australia's obligations under international humanitarian law. The depth of Hill's ingenuousness emerged last week in the Senate estimates hearings.

Moreover no-one in government will say why the Australian government did not make any representaitons to Washington to end the abuses the government knew about. More later.

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