Kristen Gelineau I AP
3 September 2008 (03 Ramadan 1429)
SYDNEY: Australia’s defence minister yesterday rejected criticism of the country’s special forces in Afghanistan after they were accused of detaining suspected Taleban militants in dog pens — a report that outraged the Muslim community.
Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon confirmed yesterday that four suspected insurgents who were arrested by Special Forces soldiers on April 29 were held for 24 hours in a compound occasionally used to house dogs.
The soldiers’ actions prompted strong criticism from the head of Australia’s main Islamic group, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.
“It is quite appalling that the Australian soldiers are in any way caught up in the inhumane treatment of human beings — irrespective of who they are,” said federation president Ikebal Patel. “I think it’s quite despicable that something like that could happen and that the Australians are party to it.”
The revelation follows complaints by an Afghan soldier about mistreatment of the detainees, who were held in southern Uruzgan province following a battle with Taleban fighters. An Australian Defence Force inquiry last week found that medical evidence and witness statements did not support allegations of abuse.
Christian Taubenschlag, a spokesman for Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, said the minister would not be available to comment further on the incident. But earlier in the day, Fitzgibbon defended the soldiers’ actions, saying the detainees were held in the most secure place available before they were transported to a detention centre in the town of Tarin Kowt.
“Our people were patrolling far away from our main base in Tarin Kowt near one of our forward operating bases. They did detain people suspected of the worst and most atrocious acts. And they detained them in the most practical way available to them at the time,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Fitzgibbon said it was misleading to characterize the holding facility as a dog pen.
“They were in a compound I’ve had described to me as a walled compound which I’m sure is used for a variety of purposes,” he told ABC. “I’m advised that the compound is from time to time used to hold dogs, yes. Dogs are a very important part of our operations there.”
Source: Arab news