2 June 2004

O'Kane role attracts US legal teams

However, Senate committee evidence from Australian military officers in Canberra this week suggests that Major O'Kane handled the Red Cross complaints more systematically.

In a draft response to the ICRC, Major O'Kane acknowledged receiving two working papers on Red Cross visits to Abu Ghraib and Camp Cropper on November 12. Those visits, as the Red Cross later detailed, turned up evidence of abuses that violated the Geneva conventions.

Major O'Kane, according to his reports, then pursued the complaints by going to Abu Ghraib to discuss them with the key figures who are now under scrutiny in the scandal.

His visit occurred at about the time that numerous abuses were being inflicted at Abu Ghraib.

Major O'Kane's account noted: 'Attended the prison to address issues of mistreatment allegations and accuracy of contents of draft reply by US Army MP [military police] and MI [military intelligence].'

Yet Colonel Warren failed to mention Major O'Kane's meetings at Abu Ghraib to the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

A US military legal expert, Professor Scott Silliman, said the draft response to the Red Cross appeared to be cleared by more senior legal officers, possibly even back in the Pentagon, due to its careful wording on applying the Geneva conventions to Abu Ghraib detainees. 'Was that letter, before it was signed, sent to Washington for co-ordination?' Professor Silliman asked. 'It very well could have happened.'

Okay, if a letter went to Washington for signature the firewall between Abu Ghraib and the Pentagon would go up in smoke. I wonder also if the US legal teams are aware of the anoymous ADF colonel who, according to evidence before the Senate estimates committee yesterday:

There is a colonel. His role was as the CPA legal officer between May 2003 and November 2004 and from March 2004 to the present time. He visited Abu Ghraib prison on numerous occasions. He performed liaison functions with the ICRC.

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