Australia faces difficulties in prosecuting alleged people smugglers
Saturday, 24 May 2003
Reporter: David Weber

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The Federal Government is facing difficulties in its efforts to extradite and prosecute alleged people-smugglers involved in the sinking of SIEV-X - the vessel carrying asylum seekers which sank in 2001.

The Justice Minister, Chris Ellison, has announced that he's seeking to extradite Khaleed Daoed from Sweden, for his alleged involvement in the tragedy.

The Minister has also expressed confidence that the first suspect, Abu Quassey, who's now in Egypt, will face people smuggling charges.

But as David Weber reports, there may be difficulties ahead.

DAVID WEBER: More than 350 people drowned in October 2001 when SIEV-X sank en route to Australia from Indonesia.

Khaleed Daoed has been arrested in Sweden, at the request of Australian authorities.

The Justice Minister, Chris Ellison, says Daoed is allegedly an accomplice of Abu Quassey, who some claim was one of the organisers of SIEV-X.

CHRIS ELLISON: We are certainly pursuing Mr Abu Quassey's attendance in Australia before an Australian court, and we have said that if we can't secure his extradition to Australia, then most certainly we stand ready to assist the Egyptian authorities in any prosecution of Mr Abu Quassey.

DAVID WEBER: Sweden has anti-people smuggling legislation in place, so an extradition required for Daoed, an Iraqi national, is relatively straightforward. Then it's in the hands of the Swedish courts.

But Quassey is another matter. He was deported to Egypt after spending six months in an Indonesian prison for visa violations. Quassey couldn't be sent to Australia, because Indonesia didn't have the necessary laws in place. Now he's in his home country, and things could get tricky.

Labor's Foreign Affairs Spokesman, Kevin Rudd, believes the Government should be doing more, or Quassey might get away.

KEVIN RUDD: There is that possibility that Quassey will slip through Australia's fingers, which is why Australia must not just look to the formal fabric of its legal arrangements with other governments by way of bilateral extradition treaties, and go instead to what can be delivered through the bilateral political relationship with the government's concerns, including the government of Egypt, but also to the extent that it is relevant to the government of Indonesia as well.

It's important for those responsible for what, in effect, is a mass murder are brought to justice.

DAVID WEBER: But Professor Ben Clarke, an expert in international law at Notre Dame University, says the Government's best efforts may come to nothing.

BEN CLARKE: Legally, the issues are firstly do we have an extradition treaty with Egypt, and secondly does Egypt have people-smuggling offences in a nature of offences that we'd want to charge this person with in Australia.

Now, the reason for that of course is the double-criminality requirement for extradition. You can't extradite somebody for something which isn't a crime in the territory where they are.

Now, the other issue is can you pass these people smuggling offences so that they have retrospective effect, which may cure that difficulty. Now, the problem with that is that in many countries the notion of retrospective offences is abhorrent.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Professor Ben Clarke.


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