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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1565


Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs) - The Australian Government asserts that any of its citizens abroad should be able to call on its protection. In the matter of dual nationality the present Government has never regarded it as insuperable that there should be 2 nations, each claiming that a certain person was its citizen. Our predecessors did regard this theory as insuperable. The previous Government did not ascertain the facts about the arrest, trial and execution of 3 persons in Yugoslavia who were claimed to be Australian citizens by Australia and Yugoslav citizens by Yugoslavia. The present Government did ascertain the facts. The previous Government never protested at Yugoslavia's assertion of dual nationality in respect of Australian naturalised citizens of Yugoslavian birth. The present Government has protested in this matter.

The whole of the present situation arises from the fact that last June there was an incursion into Yugoslavia by several persons, 3 of whom were claimed to be Australian citizens. These 3 persons were arrested, tried and executed. The previous Government inquired of Yugoslavia about this incursion. On 16th September last the Yugoslavs sent an aide-memoire stating that the group of incur.sionists had been destroyed. This, of course, was not an accurate statement. The Government of the day accepted the statement. Yesterday I tabled all the letters of September, October and November between the former Foreign Minister and the former AttorneyGeneral concerning these matters. I shall recall to honourable members 3 phrases used by my predecessor as Foreign Minister - a very distinguished lawyer indeed.


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They do not refer to the incursion.


Mr WHITLAM - No, but as a matter of fact the first one does. Perhaps I should remind the honourable and learned gentleman that I have just quoted from the Yugoslav aide-memoire of 16th September 1972. On 19th October 1972 the honourable and learned gentleman wrote to the former Attorney-General in these terms:

My conclusion is that, before taking this matter further, we would be better advised to await completion of the Commonwealth Police investigation of the whole range of matters raised by the Yugoslav Aide Memoire and the allegations made by Mr Gnjec.

On 2nd November the honourable gentleman wrote further to the then Attorney-General in these terms: . . because of the limitations imposed by the problem of dual nationality, and since, in Mr Grskovic's case, there is no evidence that he has been denied the normal protection of Yugoslav law, I feel that the Australian Government would be on weak ground in registering a formal protest.

Again, on 20th November, the honourable gentleman wrote to the then AttorneyGeneral:

In view of this, and my letter of the 19th October 1972, I feel that further approaches to the Yugoslavs al this stage would serve no useful purpose . . .

If the word 'supine' is to be used, of which government is it more appropriately to be used in the present circumstances? Let me remind honourable gentlemen - because they would have forgotten it during the previous speech - of the terms of the matter we are debating. It is:

The Australian Government's obligations

(i)   to assert and protect the rights of Australian citizens in Yugoslavia;

(ii)   lo obtain full information as to the Yugoslav Government's gaoling, trial and execution of 3 Australians; and

(iii)   to condemn the conduct of the Yugoslav Government

The previous Government had not discharged any of those obligations. The present Government has discharged al] those obligations. All of those matters are obligations on the Australian Government. They were not discharged by the previous Government. They have been discharged by the present Government. The facts as stated by the Yugoslav aide-memoire of 1 6th September last were accepted by our predecessors. They were accepted by my Government too. However, on 20th March the present Prime Minister of Yugoslavia came to Australia pursuant to arrangements made by our predecessors for the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia to visit Australia. These arrangements were confirmed by my Government, by me, when the Prime Minister was making a visit through southern Asia and to New Zealand. On 20th March Mr Bijedic arrived in Canberra. I received his call at Parliament House that afternoon. I had dinner with him the following night at the Lodge with the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) and the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee).

I also had conversations on that occasion with Mr Petrie, the Deputy Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who is completely idiomatic in English. In conversations with Mr Bijedic through an interpreter, and in conversations with Mr Petrie, I expressed the Australian Government's dissatisfaction with the handling of this matter. I pointed out that from the point of view of humanity, as well, we thought, as of law, the Australian Government was entitled to know what had happened to these persons whom it regarded as Australian citizens. It is as a result, I imagine, of the strong case that my colleagues and I put to the visiting Yugoslav Ministers that on 12th April a long statement was made by the Yugoslav Press agency, Tanjug. It is about 5 pages long and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.


Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows) - commentary of sentences belgrade, 12 april (tanjug)- as is known the terrorist group consisting of 19 members of the so-called "Croatian revolutionary fraternity" - a fascist and terrorist organization whose programme is aimed at undermining and overthrowing the constitutional order of our country and of the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia as a society of peoples and nationalities based on self-management, by the means of violence, sabotage, murder and guerilla raids, entered the territory of the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia from austria on june 20 1972. prior to its infiltration in yugoslavia, the group of fascist terrorists underwent preparations on the territory of australia and several western european countries, organized by trained and for this purpose specially selected members of the Croatian revolutionary fraternity, who had come on the order of the leadership of the headquarters of the Croatian revolutionary fraternity from australia to western europe between 1969 and 1972 with terrorist tasks. upon arrival in western europe they continued their preparations for carrying into action their criminal intents against the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia, joining with the members of terrorist organizations in those countries in the attempt to recruit new members for infiltration into yugoslavia. (more) commentary of sentences - two - out of 19 members of the fascist-terrorist group, 9 had spent a longer period in australia where they obtained australian citizenship, completed their training for terrorism and sabotage, and received instructions from the leaders of the Croatian revolutionary fraternity in connection with the organization and infiltration of the group into yugoslavia. the others had spent longer or shorter periods on the territories of france, fr germany, and austria. on the territory of austria the complete group carried out the last preparations before their infiltration in yugoslavia. the intent of the infiltrated criminals to perform acts of sabotage, assassination, terror and violence among the population was thwarted already in their first clashes with the members of the security service and of territorial defense units, who demonstrated full readiness and determination to defeat all those Who attack on the sovereignty and integrity of the socialist federal republic of Yugoslavia and to protect our socialist system based on self-management even at the price of their own lives. all over the territory of the socialist republic of bosnia-herzegovina and of the socialist republic of Croatia where the terrorists tried to escape from the security units and the units of territorial defence, the broken down terrorist group met with the constant and unanimous resistance of the people, which caused them to starve and forced them to flee to the mountains, where they were swiftly caught and destroyed, (more) commentary of sentences - three - in the course of the selfless action of the people, security units and the units of territorial defence against fascist terrorists, thirteen members of territorial units of people's defence lost their lives bravely defending the peaceful life of our people and undisturbed development of our socialist society based on self-management, they belonged to the rama, listica ljubiski, duvno and donji vakuf partisan and security units. the liquidation of the terrorists, confirmed the vitality of the organization of all-people's defence as well as the importance of the support that the security units derive from the political consciousness, determination and organized effort of the working people and other citizens ready to defend their freedom and other achievements of the revolution, the liquidation of the terrorists also proved that the reactionary forces in the world, which are constantly endeavouring to undermine the internal life of yugoslavia in conjunction with the ustasha, chetnik and other extremist emigrant organizations in europe and on other continents have again met with the inevitable response of the people who is determined and ready to defend the brotherhood, unity, freedom and territorial integrity of the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia. in the course of the action which ended in the complete liquidation of the group, IS of the 19 terrorists were killed) while four were captured by the security units and subsequently tried and sentenced by the court, (more) commentary of sentences - four - the competent yugoslav authorities have, in the course of investigation and of the court hearing, collected information and data on all the stages of the preparation of the group, on the training of its members, its association and collaboration with other terrorist organizations, groups and individuals who had taken part in the preparation of this criminal action, in addition, significant information was obtained on other groups and individuals engaged in subversive activity against the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia in certain european and overseas countries, as well as on those providing support to this activity. in the course of investigation and the court trial, the perpetrators, conspirators and collaborators of some previously performed terrorist acts and attacks upon the yugoslav diplomatic missions and other establishments and citizens abroad that had been carried out by members of fascist-terrorist and criminal organizations and groups, have been identified, the fact that such persons were in a position to pursue freely their criminal activity against the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia with the support of certain quarters in some countries causes rightful indignation of our people, (more) commentary of sentences - five - the terrorists were well armed with modern automatic and semi-automatic rifles, machine-guns and other armaments and sabotage equipment, some of which came from the regular equipment of some foreign armies, in addition to which they carried certain strong poisons which they intended to use for large-scale poisoning of the population, and thus perform one of the most serious felonies against mankind. during the court trial the criminal responsibility of the accused members of the fascist-terrorist organization of the Croatian revolutionary fraternity was established without any doubt. the accused admitted that they had undergone comprehensive preparations for their criminal actions against the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia, that they were trained abroad for the performance of felonies against the peoples and nationalities of yugoslavia, that they had taken part in the preparation or perpetration of terrorist acts both abroad and in yugoslavia, all of which has been corroborated by the evidence, (more) commentary of sentences - six - upon consideration of the appeals for pardon of the accused, the presidency of the sfr yugoslavia decided to grant pardon to pavlovic ludvig, converting capital punishment into a 20-year severe prison term, because in the course of the investigation and at the court hearing he had made a full confession, thus contributing to the investigation and disclosure of the criminal intents of the group, as well as because he had belonged to the terrorist organization for a short time, because he had not previously committed a criminal offence, and because he showed repentance before the competent authorities. the material collected during the investigation and the court trial provides proof, among other things, of the fact that the extremist yugoslav emigrant organizations in europe and on other continents consist of a part of fascist and criminal organizations and groups, enjoying support of the ultra-reactionary elements in the world, they are a constituent part of international terrorism whose aim is struggle against all that is progressive in the world, for which reason it has been condemned by the international community and in the united nations. in view of this character of the activity of that part of yugoslav emigration which is hostile to yugoslavia, our government, together with the governments of other countries, has from the very beginning provided full support to the international action of the united nations aimed fiqz fighting down international terrorism which has lately assumed proportions whose extend causes concern and anxiety of the world, also taking the necessary diplomatic steps, in doing so, our country has always been aware of the fact that international terrorism must be clearly distinguished from the just struggle of peoples for freedom and independence. the case of the infiltrated terrorist group is yet another warning to all those who reach against the freedom and independence of the peoples and nationalities of the socialist federal republic of yugoslavia, its system of self-management, brotherhood, unity and equality, at the same time it stands as a warning to the progressive forces of the world to pursue untiringly their struggle against the remainders of fascist criminal organizations, (end) vm statement from the military court in Sarajevo:

Sarajevo, 12 april (tanjug)- tanjug's Sarajevo office has received the following statement from the military court in Sarajevo: from december 11-21, 1972 the military court in Sarajevo held the main trial of the arrested members of the fascist-terrorist group: horvat djuro, son of julius and franciska, born at paljinovac, cakovec commune, on april 12, 1942, citizen of the sfr yugoslavia and australia, keskic vejsil son of mahmed and gara, born at mala pec, bihac commune, on june 25, 1939, citizen of the sfa yugoslavia and australia., vlasnovic mirko, son of jure and kata, born at gornji zemunik, zadar commune, on September IS, 1932, citizen of the sfr yugoslavia and australia, and pavlovic ludvig, son of slavko and mila, born at vitina, ljubiski commune, on april 9, 1951, citizen of the sfr yugoslavia. the group entered yugoslavia from austria on june 20, 1972, with the intention of breaking up brotherhood and unity of the peoples and nationalities of yugoslavia and upsetting the constitutional order1 of yugoslavia by the means of terrorism, violence and murder. on the basis of comprehensive evidence, the military court in Sarajevo found horvat, keskic, vlasnovic and pavlovic guilty pf the following felonies: association against people and state, article 117., organization and infiltration of the group onto the territory of yugoslavia, article 111., endangering of the territorial unity and independence of the country, article 101. and the major felony of counter-revolutionary attack on the state and social system, article 122 following upon article 100 of the criminal code, and sentenced them for the above felonies to capital punishment, (more) statement - two - after considering the appeal of the accused and. their attorneys the supreme military court fully confirmed the sentence of the military court in Sarajevo. the accused and their attorneys brought an appeal before the supreme court of yugoslavia against the sentence of the supreme military court, the supreme court of yugoslavia rejected the appeal of the accused and their attorneys as unfounded and confirmed the sentence of the supreme military court. in connection with the appeals for pardon sub mitted by the accused and their attorneys, the presidency of the sfr yugoslavia decided to reject the appeals for pardon of horvat djuro, keskic vejsil and vlasnovic mirko, and to grant pardon to pavlovic ludvig converting his sentence of capital punishment to a 20-year severe prison term. the capital punishment over horvat djuro, koskic vejsil and vlasnovic mirko has been executed, (end)

When I saw that statement I issued the following Press statement on 13 April:

The Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign

Affairs, Mr Whitlam, has sent a strong protest to the Government of Yugoslavia at their failure to inform the Australian Government of the arrest, trial and execution of 3 persons who, as naturalised Australians were regarded by Australia as having been entitled to the full protection accorded to all Australian nationals charged with offences against the laws of third countries.

The protest note pointed out that Australia's feelings were stronger in view of the active measures taken by the new Australian Government against terrorist activities in Australia.

Australia was gravely concerned that action was taken without the Australian Government being informed. It sought official confirmation of the deaths of the 3 Australian nationals and information on any other Australian nationals at present being held in custody in Yugoslavia on any charge.

The precise words of my protest, which I quoted in answer to a question yesterday, were: . . that these actions by the Yugoslav Government were taken without the Australian Government having been informed of the fact that the 3 Australian citizens had been arrested, were being held or were being tried.

Also on 13 April the Press release stated, although this is not in the protest:

Commenting on- the Government's protest Mr Whitlam said the Australian Government had a policy of clear opposition to the use of the death penalty. He pointed out that the new Australian Government had already decided - and had announced its decision ' some weeks ago1- not to allow the deportation from Australia of any Australian citizen.

Later on 16 April I received the call of the Yugoslav Ambassador and 1 pressed strongly for information on the date "of the executions. I said that again for reasons of humanity as well, we thought, as of law the Australian Government should be able to give that information to the relatives in Australia. On Monday of this week, 2 days ago, I received the information which I gave in answer to a question yesterday and which I shall repeat. Death certificates regarding the 3 dual nationals will be provided on or about 10 May. The delay arises from intervening May Day holidays and the necessity to obtain certificates from local Bosnian municipalities. The 3 men were executed on the morning of 17 March. The Government of Yugoslavia is considering the issues raised regarding the dual nationals and the Australian Ambassador will be received by the Federal Secretary for Foreign Affairs in connection with these issues.

On 19 April I directed that information be sought about the following 10 persons whom Australia regarded as Australian citizens:

1.   Ante Milicevic. Arrived in Yugoslavia for visit on 12 June 1972. Arrested 27

June. Wife and child left Yugoslavia under instructions on 11 August and returned to Australia.

2.   Nikola Raspudic. Said to have been arrested in Zagreb in 1972. Unconfirmed reports that he is dead.

3.   Stjepan Colig. Arrived in Yugoslavia in May 1972. Arrested Bjelovar on 12 July. Wife still in Yugoslavia.

4.   Nikola Grskovic. Arrived in Yugoslavia on 22 June 1972. Arrested KRK Island on 4th July. Lawyer advised he was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment at Rijeka and appeal lodged. I have already quoted from the letter of my predecessor about Grskovic.

5.   Ilija Krajina. Departed Australia 26 June 1972 to visit parents in Yugoslavia and arrested early July at Gorinji. Wife in Australia claims he has been released from prison and is undergoing national service training.

6.   Ilija Milosevic. Arrived in Yugoslavia on J 7 June 1972. Imprisoned in August and understood to be serving sentence.

7.   Johan Jurman. Said to be undergoing national service training. This case is referred to in a letter from the former Attorney-General on 12 October 1972 to the Foreign Minister, in these terms:

I understand from statements made in the Senate that Senator McManus has also drawn to your attention what has happened to Mr Johan Jurman and 1 am having prepared in my Department a summary of the allegations 1 have received and the results of police investigations into them. 1 shall forward these to you as soon as they are completed.

8.   Ante Jelusic. Sentenced to 3 years imprisonment at Doboj on 29 March 1972.

9.   Svonko Pustahija. Said to have been imprisoned for 10 days along with cousin Mario, a private in the Australian Army who was. later released. Present whereabouts of Svonko not known.

10.   Blazen Djakovic. , Sentenced to 5 years in prison at Doboj in October 1972.

On 26 April J was informed by the Australian Embassy in Belgrade as follows:

Records show Krajina ; as having returned to Melbourne by air on 19th December 1972. We do, not yet have details, however, of his alleged detention by authorities in Yugoslavia.

As far as my Department knows, every outstanding case has been made the subject of inquiries in Yugoslavia. I have given the names so that honourable members who have any other persons in mind can enable my Government to do what it can to get information and to afford them protection. Everything that has been known about the 3 men executed and about every other case has been elicited by my Government. My Government has protested. My Government has gained information. My Government is not deterred by the technicalities of dual nationality. My Government is determined to see that Australians are protected anywhere in the world.

Mi- DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order! The honourable gentleman's time has expired.







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