Friday March 23, 2012 9:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"The ongoing scandal of locking up growing numbers of largely innocent Indonesian asylum boat crew needs a major overhaul to return it to age-old principles of dispensing due justice and common law, and this major correction should be supported by both major parties. This major overhaul can commence immediately by handing over boat crew to Indonesian authorities, either upon arrest, or if age and birth dates cannot be immediately verified, or to serve their jail time," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
"Australia's incredulous practice of extrajudicial incarceration without charges by the Immigration Department in collusion with Australian Federal Police is the most brazen example that Australia has two justice systems - one codified in the Criminal Code, and a second one callously applied by the arrogant Border Mandarins of the Immigration Department, a system deliberately designed to remain outside the full reach of the jurisdictional accountability," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
"The Senate Inquiry into the Greens' "Fairness for Minors Bill" heard last Friday that the longest period one of the boat crew was jailed without ever being charged was more than two years - 735 days. If Australia wants to retain any semblance of human rights credibility and uphold the notion of a just society in the eyes of our closest neighbour, and if Australia has any interest at all in building a cooperative relationship about asylum seeker boat arrivals with Indonesia, it should deliver the boat crew to the Indonesian authorities."
"Considerable anger is growing amongst consular staff in Indonesia's Australian diplomatic representations, both in Canberra and Perth; this has become clear from my contacts with Embassy staff over recent years," Mr Smit said.
"A swiftly enacted prisoner exchange agreement will be easily reached with Indonesian authorities, it is in line with the purpose and spirit of the Bali Agreement, and it may just do wonders for those Australians who are otherwise apprehended or arrested in Indonesia - perhaps even for those Australians who are currently serving a jail sentence in Indonesian prisons. It may even change the tone of bilateral trade negotiations so that they do not end in a stalemate - as has been the case earlier this week."
"Australia's Immigration Mandarins need to be stripped of their authority in all respects, if such authority undermines the rule of law and the common decency of arrest. Even terrorist suspects cannot be held for more than a single week. This same rule of law needs to apply to asylum seeker boat crew. As long as Australia cooks up Wild West justice to Indonesian citizens it runs a permanent risk of a deteriorating diplomatic relationship, and it lacks any credibility when talking about human rights to Indonesia - a country that has rapidly advanced its own adherence to human rights law and UN Conventions under its current President. The sooner we realise that we are "the idiot nation" with respect to Indonesian boat crew, the better it is."
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]