Classified US memo re prisoner’s mysterious death

A previously classified US Department of Defence memo about the death of an Iraqi prisoner, Tanik Mahmud, was published today on the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) website.

The memo discusses the involvement of Australian, British and American military personnel in the capture, detention and transfer of Tanik Mahmud to an Iraqi detention facility known only as as H1.

Mr Mahmud died en-route, “cause of death unknown”. He was one of more than 60 Iraqis captured by Australian troops in the western desert of Iraq in April 2003. Prior to their transfer to H1, the prisoners had sandbags placed over their heads and their hands were zip-tied.

‘This official US military report, obtained by PIAC, confirms that the Australian troops were accompanied by just one US soldier, when they captured the suspected combatants in western Iraq. The report concluded that in such circumstances, the US, UK and Australia will be jointly responsible under the Geneva Conventions for the detention.

‘This contradicts Australia’s repeated statements that it was never a Detaining Power in Iraq, including in this particular incident,’ said PIAC chief executive officer, Edward Santow.

‘The report highlights that Australia had clear obligations under the Geneva Conventions and it deliberately sought to avoid them. That policy of denial was so implausible that even Australia’s ally, the United States, did not accept it in this instance.’

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