The request for assistance was then referred on to the [Australian] Federal Police but they said they didn’t have the resources to respond. (Serco Regional Manager John Hayes)
The above quote from Serco Manager John Hayes is part of a response he gave to a parliamentary committee enquiring into the circumstances leading up to the Villawood Detention Centre which occurred earlier this year. While the circumstances leading to the riot and how Serco responded are of concern, what is more concerning for the Australian taxpayer is the testimony of Mr. Hayes that the AFP said that “they didn’t have the resources to respond.” This is a scary thought, a privatized detention center is in the midst of a riot and the law enforcement agency tasked with responding to the situation doesn’t have “the resources to respond.” The obvious question that has gone begging in all of this is what did the AFP do with approximately $2 Billion budget for the 2010-2011 Financial Year?
We know that the AFP uses some of this money to equip and train Detachment 88. What is Detachment 88? Detachment 88 was formed after the hideous Bali bombing in 2002and was (and remains) primarily trained and bankrolled by the United States and Australia via the AFP. As expected from such a counter terrorist unit; the group is trained in hostage rescue, defusing bombs, surveillance techniques and interrogation etc. As such, their purpose is to locate and destroy (“pre-emptive strikes”) Islamic terrorist groups – that operate within Indonesia’s borders.
Accusations of Abuse and Torture: Much like its sister service, Kopassus, Detachment 88 has been accused by many groups of torture and systematic abuse of Indonesian citizenry. Amnesty International released a statement (dated August 4th, 2010) in which they reported that the Detachment 88 uses illegal detention and torture. In the statement, Amnesty Notes:
“Detachment 88 police officers, who have regularly been accused of involvement in torture, arrested the activists on 2nd August . The activists had been planning to use a visit by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Maluku province on 3 August to draw attention to human rights violations there.
We fear these activists are at risk of extremely brutal treatment given the record of Detachment 88” said Donna Guest, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director for Amnesty International. “Independence activists in Maluku have been tortured with impunity by police in the past”
Amnesty International is not the only group to report their concern. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has also reported on these abuses. In June of this year, HRW released a report entitled Prosecuting Political Aspiration which also noted abuses by this Detachment 88.
In response to a question asked by Australian Senator Trood on 22 February 2011, the AFP responded with:
The involvement of the AFP in training programs at JCLEC allows the AFP to impress on regional counterparts some of the values the AFP holds such as human rights and ethics in policing.
The principles of human rights are embedded in all JCLEC programs and police accountability is incorporated in scenario-based activities.
So much for the ability of the AFP “to impress on regional counterparts some of the values the AFP holds such as human rights and ethics in policing” or perhaps the activities of Detachment 88 that both Amnesty and HRW have criticised are the same ones that “the AFP holds”!
We also know that some of the AFP’s budget has been squandered on making improper payments to witnesses in politically motivated trials in the Solomon Islands. During the trial of three former members of the Solomon Islands Parliament Alex Bartlett, Charles Dausabea and Nelson Ne’e the Solomon Islands High Court heard about written agreements that the then Solomon Islands Police Commissioner, Shane Castles (an AFP officer on secondment to the Solomon Islands Police) made with two crucial prosecution witnesses. Pursuant to these agreements the witnesses received significant financial and other assistance on the condition they kept the agreements secret and gave evidence in Court only in accordance with their police statements. The agreements were in a form that violated judicial rulings on such matters and attempts to keep them secret clearly violated Solomon Islands law governing disclosure of relevant information to defence lawyers.
Similarly Justice Debra Mullins of the Queensland Supreme Court, in a decision now on appeal to the High Court of Australia found that financial support given by the AFP to witnesses in the Julian Moti prosecution amounted to an abuse of process. These now discredited witnesses payments made by the AFP in the Julian Moti and the Alex Bartlett, Charles Dausabea and Nelson Ne’e cases to facilitate politically motivated prosecutions of those Canberra deems as impediments to Australia’s neo-colonial interests in the Pacific, come out of their $2Billion budget.
Added to this the Australian Government has been forced to pay compensation to Dr Muhamed Haneef the Indian doctor who was wrongly accused of aiding terrorists. He was arrested on 2 July 2007 at Brisbane Airport, on suspicion of terror-related activities. He is the second cousin once removed of Kafeel Ahmed and Sabeel Ahmed, the operatives in the 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack. Haneef’s ensuing detention became the longest without charge in recent Australian history.
Haneef was released when the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew its charge on 27 July 2007. In December 2010, Haneef returned to Australia to seek damages for loss of income, interruption of his professional work, and emotional distress. He was awarded$1,800,000 in compensation from the Australian government.
Then we have the case of Mr. Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen, who received an undisclosed payout from the Australian government, apparently triggered by untested witness statements implicating Australian officials in his detention and brutal maltreatment in a Cairo military prison, in return for dropping his law suit. The law suit accused the Commonwealth of complicity in his 2001 CIA rendition to Egypt, where he was detained and tortured for seven months before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. Habib was later released without charge.
While in Egypt however Habib was subjected to physical and psychological torture, “… including beatings, electrocution, being burned with cigarettes, having his finger and toe-nails pulled out, assault by dogs, being locked in a box, kept in a cell where he couldn’t lie straight, sexual humiliation, being kept in a flooded cell where he had to stand on the tip of his toes to avoid drowning, and watching another prisoner being kicked to death, among other horrors. Clearly these are the values that the AFP holds including human rights and ethics in policing which they are at pains to impress on their Indonesian counterparts at the JCLEC.
In their 2009-2010 Annual Report the AFP notes that “money laundering investigations continued to be a key focus of the Economic and Special Operations function. Organised crime is driven by a profit motive and financial gain underlies the entire criminal economy.” Further in this report the AFP notes that:
“The group is particularly focused on money laundering and the identification of terrorist financing in the Asia-Pacific region and helps its members implement recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force in relation to money laundering and terrorism financing.”
I find this claim by the AFP rather astounding given that they did nothing about the money laundering activities that the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue uncovered within ACT Treasury and reported to AUSTRAC. Perhaps this falls under the same heading as politically motivated improper witness payments – where Australian political corruption is suspected – the AFP dare not go!
There you have it folks. The AFP can’t find the resources to respond to a riot at the federally controlled though privately run Villawood Detention Centre, but it can find the money to fund an organisation, Detachment 88, accused of human rights violations amounting to genocide in West Papua. It can also find the money to make improper payments to witnesses in Australian politically motivated criminal prosecutions, but it can find the money to carry out one of its core functions in Australia when requested to do so by Serco. It can apparently find the money to fit-up and then compensate Dr. Haneef, but the budget just isn’t there to protect Australian citizens who may have felt threatened during the riots at Villawood. It can trumpet its anti-money laundering credentials, but can’t investigate an allegation of money laundering made by a senior Australian Capital Territory Government official.
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