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Government fails to cut ties with torture unit

The Australian Greens have criticised the Government for failing to take action in response to allegations an Indonesian unit supported by Australian authorities has used torture against peaceful protestors.

On November 4 this year Greens legal affairs spokesperson, Senator Scott Ludlam, called on the Government to stop funding Detachment 88, an Indonesian ‘counter-terrorism' unit that has been linked to a series of human rights abuses.

"Demonstrators arrested in Ambon, in Maluku, unveiled 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 and many of them tortured and hospitalised," Senator Ludlam said. "70 political activists in Maluku have been imprisoned since 2007."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reported this week that the total Australian Federal Police financial support for counter-terrorism initiatives in South East Asia in the 2009/10 was $16.3 million. DFAT said while the AFP is not directly involved in Detachment 88 operational activities, the AFP's support to the Indonesian National Police includes that unit.

Senator Ludlam said that while Australian officials provide support to Detachment 88, it is not enough to leave investigations of the unit's conduct in the hands of the Indonesian authorities.

"We are told the AFP does not have the power to investigate what Detachment 88 has done, but it does have the power to stop funding and supporting the unit," he said. "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 our Government has not issued a similar ban, which is much-needed."

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 it is a major beneficiary of $16.3 million in annual funding allocated to the AFP to combat terrorism in south-east Asia.

 

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