16 June 2004

O'Kane warned of prison abuse: US general

Australian military lawyer Major George O'Kane 'aggressively warned' about Geneva Convention violations at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, a suspended United States general was reported as saying today.

Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was suspended from duty as head of the prison near Baghdad after the prisoner abuse scandal broke, said Major O'Kane had urged his US superiors to allow Red Cross inspections of the prison, today's Australian newspaper reported.

She did not believe Major O'Kane knew about the abuses that were photographed by guards from her 800th Military Police Brigade.

'Had Major O'Kane known anything about those photographs or anything close to those photographs, he would have come and told me,' Brig Gen Karpinski told the Australian newspaper.

Major O'Kane and his Australian colleague Colonel Mike Kelly were more knowledgable and supportive of Geneva Conventions than some US military lawyers, she said.

Brigadier General Karpinski called on the federal government to allow Major O'Kane to speak publicly about his knowledge of the scandal.

He has been gagged by the government since the scandal became public.

The government has O'Kane's response to the ICRC allegations. We know that from the Senate estimates hearings. The government's explanations was that they wanted to protect O'Kane from an unfair grilling.

If O'Kane defended the Geneva Conventions vigorously, what protection does he need? The only parties who could need protection from the O'Kane draft are the Australia and American governments.

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