Conclusion of an Inspector General Australian Defence Force Inquiry concerning allegations of inappropriate and unprofessional conduct by Australian Defence Force Investigators in the Middle East Area Of Operations
16 May 2013
On 24 May 2012, the Minister for Defence Stephen Smith advised Parliament that the Inspector General Australian Defence Force was conducting an Inquiry into allegations of inappropriate conduct and flawed processes by Australian Defence Force Investigative Service (ADFIS) investigators in the Middle East Area of Operations.
At the time, Minister Smith undertook to advise on the outcomes of the Inquiry as appropriate. On 28 May 2012, Minister Smith reiterated this undertaking to the House of Representatives, after certain allegations were published in the Australian media regarding the mishandling of the remains of Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, the mishandling of the remains of Afghan insurgents, and the mistreatment of an Afghan minor.
The Inquiry is now complete.
The following findings relate to the allegations published in the media:
Allegations of mishandling the remains of Australian soldiers:
The Inquiry confirmed that two caskets containing the remains of Australian soldiers were inverted on leaving the Multi-National Base Tarin Kot. However, the remains contained within both caskets were correctly oriented and the remains were never upside down. The caskets were realigned before being flown back to Australia. At all times, the soldiers’ remains were treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Instructions on the use of the casket have been amended to provide clearer guidance on the correct orientation.
The Inquiry also confirmed that medical devices were removed from the remains of Australian soldiers by ADFIS personnel prior to their return to Australia. However, the removal of medical devices from the remains did not breach criminal or coronial legislation or guidelines, nor was there any requirement for the removal to be approved or undertaken by medical officers. Instructions on the management of medical devices in human remains have subsequently been issued.
Allegations of mishandling of the remains of an Afghan insurgent:
The Inquiry found that it was likely the remains of an Afghan insurgent killed during an engagement with Australian forces in August 2010 were transported from the ISAF Role 2 medical facility at the Multi-National Base Tarin Kot to the local civilian morgue by taxi. The remains of the Afghan insurgent were not under the control of Australian forces, and were transferred under standard arrangements between a Coalition partner and the local Afghan authorities.
The Inquiry also confirmed that an Afghan insurgent died in the ISAF Role 2 medical facility at the Multi-National Base Tarin Kot following an engagement with Australian forces in October 2010. Following an investigation by ADFIS staff, including a forensic examination, a Coalition partner arranged for the remains of the Afghan insurgent to be transferred to the family for burial. The Inquiry found that Defence policy did not provide clear direction on the management of human remains of non-Coalition personnel who die in Australian custody, and recommended amplification and amendment of the policy.
Allegation of mistreatment of an Afghan minor:
The Inquiry confirmed that an Afghan minor (assessed to be a juvenile of 16 years old) entered the Multi-National Base Tarin Kot in October 2010 seeking his father, who had been wounded the previous day in an engagement with Australian forces. The Inquiry confirmed that, following a standard screening process, the juvenile was detained by Australian forces for approximately two hours. During this time he was questioned, given food and drink, and medically examined, before being released. The allegation that the juvenile had been handed over to American control, where he was interrogated and subjected to violence, was not substantiated.
The Inquiry examined a range of other allegations which were found in the majority of cases to be unsubstantiated. Several failures of process or deficiencies in policy were identified and recommendations have been made to the relevant authorities for remedial action.
The findings and recommendations of the Inquiry, which have been redacted to comply with the requirements of the Privacy Act 1988, are available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/header/publications.htm#I
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999