The Australian Greens have called on the Federal Government to stop funding and training an Indonesian "counter-terrorism" unit linked to a series of human rights abuses.
"On the day the Government lodged our National Report for the United Nations Human Rights Council's review, we should be taking a strong stand for human rights in our region by refusing to support an agency that is using torture," said Senator Scott Ludlam. "Special Detachment 88 has been linked to grievous human rights abuses for three years - and operates with funding and support from the Australian Government."
At a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Senate Estimates session last month Senator Ludlam grilled department officials on the Detachment's reported arbitrary arrest and torture of people in Ambon, Maluku, for peaceful protests. He was told there has been no formal or informal inquiry into the allegations.
"How much money and resources do we commit to training this outfit?" Senator Ludlam asked the hearing. "This is a unit that we fund and assist in training which is being accused of some quite horrific activities... surely we are interested in what is occurring there."
"These are not terrorist activities that these police are investigating. The demonstrators arrested in Ambon unveiled their independence flag at an event at which the Indonesian president was present... They have subsequently been jailed and many of them tortured and hospitalised," Senator Ludlam said. "70 political activists in Maluku have been imprisoned since 2007."
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 Australian Federal Police, and it is a major beneficiary of $16 million in annual funding allocated to the AFP to combat terrorism in south-east Asia.
"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 continues to actively support this unit," said Senator Ludlam.