Bartlett Presses For Extradition of SIEVX Organiser
5 December 2002
Senator Andrew Bartlett is to be congratulated for the strong, forthright and uncompromising stand that he took in the Senate yesterday on an urgent, current aspect of the SIEVX issue.
Bartlett asked a series of questions of Justice Minister, Senator Ellison regarding Australia's intentions with regard to bringing to justice one of the self-admitted organisers of the SIEVX voyage, Abu Quassey, who is currently in jail in Indonesia, but due for release on 1 January. [click here for full text of Bartlett's questions]
Bartlett asked Ellison:
What cooperation has been occurring to ensure that those responsible for the mass killings of those on board the SIEVX are... brought to justice.
Ellison appeared to take Bartlett's questions seriously and the house was strangely silent, but in substance Ellison was very unforthcoming. He did not refer at all to what Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Keelty said in Senate Estimates on Wednesday two weeks ago regarding the impossibility of extraditing Quassey on homicide charges because of an inability to 'prove jurisdiction' despite that being already on the public record and Ellison having been sitting with Keelty at the time! Ellison did however say that Quassey is a 'person of interest to Australian law enforcement' which is perhaps some advance on what Keelty said.
Ellison offered Bartlett a confidential briefing, but Bartlett was not to be fobbed off and returned to the issue an hour later and continued to press Ellison on the matter:
Senator Bartlett has bravely opened up this issue and now needs the active support of Labor and the Greens to continue to press the Government for clear answers on Quassey's extradition (or non-release until he can be extradited) to Australia on homicide related charges.
It does seem particularly important to the Democrats, given some of the other allegations that have been made about the SIEVX, that we ensure those who were responsible are brought to justice. Given the large number of people who died and Australia's link with the vessel, and particularly given the expected location of where the vessel sank-which was in international waters
- then it is appropriate that Australian authorities be involved in investigating the matter. The Australian Federal Police have admitted a number of times that they are involved in, or are aware of, so-called 'disruption activities' in Indonesia in relation to people who are contemplating getting on a vessel with the intent of coming to Australia. Given Australia's long-standing involvement in those activities
, I think it is particularly important that as much as possible is done to ensure that all information is made available about who was involved, and in what way, in the SIEVX in particular. [emphasis added]
The person who has been identified as being significantly involved, indeed as the organiser of the boat that sank, Mr Abu Quassey, who was identified on Australian television some time back as a key organiser of that vessel, has been in jail in Indonesia for a short period on various offences but will be out of jail by the end of this year. Given the minister's statement that Mr Quassey is a person of interest, it is particularly important from the Democrats point of view that whatever interest there is from the Federal Police be exercised fully before Abu Quassey gets out of jail at the end of the year and is able to disappear back into the community - or indeed to leave Indonesia altogether, given that, as I understand it, he is not a national of Indonesia and possibly not even an authorised resident. He would obviously be a crucial person to be able to question further and for more information to be made public about all that was involved-how many people were involved, in what way and how-in the lead-up to the SIEVX tragedy.
Three hundred and fifty three people is a lot of people. From the Democrats point of view, this is a major tragedy that has not been adequately recognised [emphasis added]. As is completely appropriate, in relation to the hundreds of people who died in the Bali bombings Australian authorities, including the Federal Police, have been working very hard and diligently in trying to ensure that those involved and those responsible are being brought to justice. From all reports, the cooperation between Australian authorities and the Indonesian authorities has been progressing relatively well in a short period. The SIEVX tragedy is now well over a year old, and there certainly does not appear to have been the same degree of urgency or the same degree of intensive investigation in a cooperative way between Australian and Indonesian officials.
There is a real risk that a key person involved in that tragedy, which resulted in the deaths of so many people, may be able to walk free in a short period and that the information he holds may not be able to be confirmed or examined. [emphasis added]
There are only a few days remaining in the Senate this year. It is vital that something is done in this session of Parliament - next year will be too late! Quassey is due to walk free in less than a month.
We strongly urge readers of this site to write and congratulate Bartlett for his courage and most importantly to call on Labor and the Greens to follow his example by moving a Senate majority motion calling for a full powers judicial inquiry into the unexplained issues concerning the Australian Government authorised people smuggling disruption program in Indonesia and the sinking of SIEVX.