CANBERRA, Australia – Australian lawmakers voted against holding an inquiry into allegations that the United States sends terror suspects to foreign countries to be tortured after a heated debate in parliament Thursday.
The left-wing Greens Party formally proposed a Senate inquiry following allegations by an Australian released from Guantanamo Bay (search) in January that he had been sent to Egypt to be tortured.
Egyptian-born Mamdouh Habib (search), 50, claimed in a television interview broadcast by Australian public broadcaster SBS on Wednesday that his Egyptian interrogators who allegedly tortured him had been briefed by Australia's secret service.
His allegations raised fresh questions about Australia's (search) knowledge of abuse.
The Greens needed the support of Labor as well as other opposition parties and independent senators for the inquiry to be established because government senators opposed any inquiry. The government does not hold a majority of seats in the upper house Senate.
But Labor voted against the motion, ensuring its defeat.
Greens leader, Sen. Bob Brown, slammed senators' failure to back his call for an inquiry.
"I have not moved for an inquiry that is more important than this one," Brown told the Senate.
"I can't believe the Labor Party is welching on its duty to ensure that this inquiry takes place and one must assume that there is a misguided belief that we must not upset the United States of America," he added.
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said earlier that his party was concerned a Senate inquiry was not an appropriate forum to hear sensitive intelligence matters.
Habib was released without charge from the U.S. military base in Cuba more than three years after his arrest in Pakistan in October 2001.
Three weeks after his capture, Habib claimed he was sent to Egypt where he was tortured daily for six months before arriving at Guantanamo Bay early in 2002.
Rudd said the government should ask the United States why it sent Habib to Egypt.
"It is important that the government provide all relevant information to the Australian people on this," Rudd said.
The government has said it believed Habib was sent to Egypt from Pakistan, although Egypt has declined to confirm this.
The government says it does not know how he got there, although Pakistani Interior Minister Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat told SBS last year that Washington sent him.
Attorney General Philip Ruddock said Australia had not asked the United States if Habib had been sent to Egypt to be tortured because he did not believe the Americans would reply.
"I ask questions to which I realistically expect I'm going to get an answer and I don't think I'd be going to get an answer," Ruddock told SBS.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said this week that before the United States hands over terror suspects to foreign governments, it receives assurances they won't be tortured.
Human rights advocates allege that the U.S. government is getting foreign governments to apply torture to elicit information that could not be obtained legally in America.