Inquiry into the actions of Australian Government agencies in relation to the arrest and detention overseas of Mr Mamdouh Habib from 2001 to 2005

Media release:

  • Prime Minister
  • Attorney-General
  • Minister for Foreign Affairs

23 March 2012

The Government has today released the unclassified version of the report from the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security's Inquiry into the actions of Australian Government agencies in relation to the arrest and detention overseas of Mr Mamdouh Habib from 2001 to 2005.

The Inspector-General, Dr Vivienne Thom, conducted the inquiry following a request from the Prime Minister in December 2010. Dr Thom provided her report to the Prime Minister on 19 December 2011.

The report indicates that no Australian official was found to be involved or complicit in any alleged mistreatment or relocation of Mr Habib while he was detained overseas. However, the report also makes clear that some whole-of-government mechanisms and processes could have worked better. 

The Government has carefully considered the report's findings, and accepted five of the report's six recommendations, which strengthen policies and procedures to ensure proper treatment of Australians detained overseas.

New policies will enhance monitoring and reporting processes regarding an individual's ability to communicate with Australian officials or legal representatives, provide guidelines to mitigate the risk of inhumane or cruel treatment, and formalise reporting processes where officials become aware or suspect that an Australian detained overseas is being mistreated. Those processes will also enhance decision-making procedures surrounding the passing of material to foreign governments where it may subsequently be used in improper questioning of any individual, irrespective of their nationality.

Many of these changes are already being implemented by the relevant agencies. 

The Government has not accepted a recommendation proposing that government agencies prepare an apology to Mrs Maha Habib for failing to keep her properly informed of Mr Habib's welfare and circumstances.  We are satisfied that Australian agencies and officials performed their duties faithfully in the difficult and unprecedented environment in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. We note also that there were considerable constraints on access to detainees, including Mr Habib, in Guantanamo Bay.

Since 2007, the Government has enhanced oversight mechanisms by establishing an Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and extending the powers of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to conduct inquiries into agencies outside the Australian intelligence community.

The commissioning of this Inquiry and the release of the report underlines the Government's commitment to transparency and oversight of the activities of our national security agencies.

Separately, the Government has already enhanced coordination across government to respond to any similar incidents in future through the establishment of a protocol to ensure a better coordinated response.

A copy of the report, with details of all recommendations, can be found at www.igis.gov.au/inquiries/

Media enquiries