RI, Australia may widen extradition treaty

Friday, September 07, 2001
Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia and Australia will study the possibility of widening their extradition treaty to cover people-smuggling offenses, Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said after talks with three Australian ministers.

"There is an opportunity for us to include more crimes or offenses within the scope of the extradition treaty," Wirayuda told a joint media conference after he emerged from a two-hour meeting with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock and Defense Minister Peter Reith.

The two countries are discussing measures to stem global smuggling activities.

Hassan said that the two countries had agreed that people-trafficking was not only a bilateral matter, but also a regional and international one.

"We agreed that in this brief meeting we did not expect to make progress to solve the current problem faced by Indonesia and Australia -- that is illegal migrants. But we agreed to hold further talks at senior official level early next week," Hassan said.

The people-trafficking issue does not only involve humanitarian matters but also has a strong connection with drugs-and weapons-smuggling as well as the threat of international terrorism.

Featuring prominently in the background was the case of a shipload of 438, mostly Afghan asylum seekers who were rescued by the Norwegian cargo ship Tampa when their Indonesian ship sank on Aug. 26 close to Christmas Island.

The Norwegian ship tried without success to enter Indonesian waters, following a military operation launched by the Australian government, which had earlier denied entry to the ship.

The three senior Australian ministers held a two-day marathon meeting here with their counterparts and other officials.

Also present at Thursday's meeting, held at the office of the Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, were Susilo himself, Minister of Defense Matori Abdul Djalil, National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro and Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Adm. Widodo A.S.

Hassan reiterated that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other international migrant organizations had to be involved during the next round of talks between senior officials.

Meanwhile, Alexander Downer said that the meeting also covered the issue of extraditing people-smugglers to Australia and the strengthening of Indonesian law concerning the practice.

"Our lawyers will examine the existing extradition treaty to see if it can cover people-smuggling. We certainly agreed that this is an issue that needs to be addressed," he said.

Earlier, AFP reported that Jakarta had rejected an offer made by Australian Prime Minister John Howard to fund the construction of a facility in Indonesia to process asylum-seekers who used the archipelago as a jumping-off point on their way to Australia.

Howard said the visiting ministers would renew the offer, which had been on the table for a while.

Asked to comment on this, Hassan Wirayuda said, "We reject it, if they mean a holding center. The government already conveyed this to Howard when he visited President Megawati."

On the four Indonesian citizens currently under detention in Western Australia due to their alleged involvement in people-smuggling, Downer said, "We caution Indonesians who may have boats not to allow them to be used for this purpose because it can cause enormous problems for them under Australian law." (tso/hbk)

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