Practice Relating to Rule 123. Recording and Notification of Personal Details of Persons Deprived of Their Liberty
Australia’s Commanders’ Guide (1994) provides: “Basic identifying information is required by the enemy to enable notification of capture to the Central PW Information Bureau.”
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states:
As soon as hostilities start each party involved should, where appropriate, take certain immediate steps for the benefit of PW [prisoners of war]. These include:
• setting up an official Information Bureau for the PW it holds.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
In June 2003, in its consideration of the budget statements for the Department of Defence, the Australian Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee was provided with a portfolio overview. This prompted a number of questions from the Committee addressed to, inter alia, the Director-General of the Defence Legal Service on the handling of prisoners of war arising from the Iraq War. Commodore Smith’s responses to these questions included:
We [Australia] did not deploy the sort of resources that you need to run prisoner of war camps and to give these people the treatment that they are entitled to under the conventions, so we were then going to rely on the resources of our allies. But when you do transfer prisoners of war who have been formally received, taken responsibility for and processed, you must be able to trace what happens to them and monitor the standard of treatment. In dealing with them, that remains your obligation.
[Australia] did develop all the national structures required to deal with prisoners, including a national information bureau which we established in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Had we taken prisoners and been formally responsible for them, they would have been given identities and numbers and we would then have had to activate the international regimes back through Australia for the central tracing agency which goes back through Geneva to inform that organisation of the people we had identified and for whom we were responsible.