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Human rights lawyer defends West Papuan activism
Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson speaks to Jim Middleton about West Papua's struggle for independence from Indonesia.

Australia has raised hackles in Jakarta over Canberra's response to an ABC 7.30 report accusing an Indonesian counter-terrorism unit of human rights violations in West Papua.

Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, has called on Jakarta to investigate the killing of a West Papuan activist, Mako Tabuni, allegedly by members of a unit called Detachment 88, which has received training and support from the Australian Federal Police.

Jennifer Robinson is an Australian lawyer best known for her role in helping fight efforts by WikiLeak's Julian Assange to avoid extradition from Britain.

But for a decade she has also been deeply involved providing legal assistance and advice to West Papuan activists seeking autonomy, and in some cases independence from Indonesia.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON: Jennifer Robinson, welcome to the program.

JENNIFER ROBINSON, LAWYER: Thank you very having me Jim.

JIM MIDDLETON: Let's start with this: an influential Indonesian legislator has rebuked Bob Carr for seeking an inquest into the killing of Mako Tabuni. They're branding him a terrorist, at least the Indonesian legislators are, and are accusing Australia of double standards, raising questions about this episode but then being more than happy when Detachment 88 tracked down jihadist and bomb makers in Indonesia. What do you think about that?

JENNIFER ROBINSON: There's absolutely no hypocrisy involved whatsoever. And in fact, this is actually very revealing about Indonesian government's perception of peaceful West Papuan activists who are speaking out on behalf of their people for self-determination.

The Australian Government is right to institute an investigation into this, when you have forces designed to be countering terrorism being turned against domestic dissidents and peaceful activists. In no way can you compare Mako Tabuni to jihadists. He was a peaceful activist, a leader of his people. And all he was doing was criticising the government for their human rights abuse, seeking accountability for that abuse and putting forwards the West Papuan's desire for self-determination. This is not a crime and it's not terrorism.

JIM MIDDLETON: Isn't this the problem for Australia, though, it wants to help Indonesia combat Muslim extremism and then it turns out that the people they're training, Detachment 88, are also using what they've learned from Australia in West Papua?

JENNIFER ROBINSON: It is a difficult problem, and one that can be combated, I think, by imposing certain human rights conditionality in the military aid that we provide. If Indonesia is unable to assure our government that the assistance we provide does not contribute to human rights abuses then we shouldn't be providing it at all.

JIM MIDDLETON: Julian Assange's future may still be up in the air but you've not been without success in another extradition case. Tell us a little about the withdrawal of an Interpol Red Notice against West Papuan independent leader Benny Wenda who, of course, is currently in exile in Britain.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: Benny Wenda is a leader in exile of the West Papuan independence movement. He was 10 years ago a political prisoner and later sought refuge in the UK where he was granted political asylum. Almost 10 years later the Indonesian government sought an international arrest warranted for his arrest for precisely the same politically motivated challenges for which he was granted asylum in the United Kingdom.

Ten years ago I worked on his case when he was a political prisoner in Indonesia, and I provided the witness statement that supported his asylum application in the UK. So it was of great concern to me that a refugee living abroad could still be persecuted by their home state through the use of the Interpol arrest warrant system. And as it turns out it is a very common occurrence. We've been very fortunate in that two years later, with the help of Fair Trials International, we've been able to challenge that politically motivated Interpol arrest notice and it has been taken down.

JIM MIDDLETON: And what was it that you learned at the original trial, I think in Jayapura, which enabled the case to be brought which subsequently led to Interpol withdrawing the Red Notice?

JENNIFER ROBINSON: During the course of that trial, the prosecution was unable to adduce any reliable evidence that placed Benny at the times and the places where they alleged he had been to commit various criminal offences.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: They produced witness statements, witness statements that we couldn't identify those who had made them, they wouldn't bring them to the court for cross-examination. And there was widespread accusations and belief amongst the defence team that evidence had been fabricated.

So basically the purpose of my statement was to show that, in the course of the trial that I sat through and assisted on, there was no credible evidence put forward to form the basis of the Interpol arrest notice indeed the original charges in Indonesia.

JIM MIDDLETON: You describe this as a test case for Interpol. Interpol concluded, in withdrawing the Red Notice, that the case had been predominantly political. What implications then do you think this might have for the whole use of Red Notices by Interpol?

JENNIFER ROBINSON: Fair trials International has used Benny's case with our help to become a test case and to be the first case of a longer campaign in seeking to have the Interpol notices internationally that have been sought for dissidents around the world taken down. So his is hopefully the first of many.

But it raises fundamental questions about Interpol and the international oversight. What you have is essentially an international police body in France which is not subject to the judicial review of the French courts, but also there is no judicial body at the international level through which you can challenge those warrants.

All that you have available to you is internal Interpol committees. And in my view this is insufficient, there ought to be judicial oversight. Happily we were successful in this case and I hope that Benny's case, and we believe that Benny's case will become an example for many other dissidents living around the world who have suffered the persecution that he has as well.

But Fair Trials International is currently working on that and are calling for anyone who is in the same situation to get in touch with them so they can help them.

JIM MIDDLETON: We had better leave it there. Jennifer Robinson thank you very much indeed.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: You're welcome.
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