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The AFP and Detachment 88

Categories: Australian Federal Police, Hypocrisy, Rule of Law, Shared humanity

by: Bakchos
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Detachment 88’s major facility at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Co-operation was established in 2004 with almost $40 million of Australian funding. According to its website, most of the counter-terrorism seminars at the Centre are run by the AFP and according to The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 2009/10 annual report, it is a major beneficiary of $16.3 million in annual funding allocated to the AFP to combat terrorism in south-east Asia.

Further, the AFP badge is proudly displayed on the cover page of the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Co-operation’s website, noted as being one of two affiliates to the centre, the other affiliate being the Indonesian National Police.

The Age reported on October 19, 2010 in an article headed Indonesian security agencies ‘below Australian standard’ that a former head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Mr. Richardson, made the following observation about Detachment 88:

”In working with Indonesian agencies you can get tension between the responsibility you think you owe to your own citizens … and the conduct of some Indonesian agencies that are not up to our standard,” he said. ”We make [the] representations we think we should and condemn human rights abuses.”

”We make [the] representations we think we should and condemn human rights abuses.” But we still fund them to the tune of $16.3 million dollars a year. Well Mr. Richardson, is that not hypocrisy? So it’s apparently OK to support a foreign police unit that is accused of torturing its own citizens, so long as Australia doesn’t get its hands dirty. What you are actually saying is that the human rights of Indonesian nationals are worth less than the human rights of Australians.

We all know, or at least those of us who are Indigenous Australians know, that in the eyes of Australia’s police services the human rights of black Australians are worth less than the human rights of their white ocunterparts. It would now appear that this racism has been exported via the Australian Federal Police to Indonesia! How does condoning the torture, even tacitly, of innocent people enhance Australia’s security? I would have thought that ensuring equality and justice for everyone would be a much more secure means of ensuring everyone’s security. Though I guess that Australia’s neo-colonialism is more about control than equity and justice, just ask the Indigenous people of Australia who in the eyes of some, including some in government, still can’t be called the equals of even those whites on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic spectrum in Australia.

The United States introduced a ban on training or assisting Detachment 88 members in Maluku in 2008 after the allegations of torture first emerged in 2007, but not so the Australian Government. I guess that Australia has its vested neo-colonial interests to consider.

What exactly happened in Ambon, in Maluku to bring down the ire of Detachment 88 on a group of apparently peaceful protestors? Well, they were guilty of the heinous crime of unveiling their independence flag at an event at which the Indonesian president was present . This had nothing to do with terrorism whatsoever. They were subsequently jailed, with many of them tortured and hospitalised. The Australian Greens legal affairs spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, noted in a press release dated December 11, 2010 that “70 political activists in Maluku have been imprisoned since 2007.”

Imprisoned and tortured for what? For unveiling a flag at a peaceful protest. What has that got to do with terrorism? Apart from the lengthy periods of imprisonment, these are the same tactics that the Australian Federal Police have used on more than one occasion at protests I have attended at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.

Torture is torture, regardless of whether the victim is black or white, a citizen of your country or not. When Mr. Richardson and his cronies make comments like, ”We make [the] representations we think we should and condemn human rights abuses.” and then give those very same rights abusers $16.3 million of Australian tax payers’ money so that they can continue with their torture, what is the real message being conveyed? To me it seems Mr. Richardson and his colleagues in the Australian Federal Police are saying “torture is cool, so long as our hands stay lily white.” Well torture ain’t OK and when Australia funds and cooperates with people and organizations it knows are guilty of torture, that makes Australia complicit in those activities and stains our hands with the victims’ blood just the same as if we carried out the torture ourselves.

I for one am not proud to say that I am a citizen of a country that condones torture. Torture not only offends against international law, it offends against the very things that make us human. All those who are involved in torture whether directly or indirectly should be tried before an international court and held accountable for their crimes. This includes members of those Australians organisations and institutions who support, directly or indirectly, the torture of foreign nationals by their own government.

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