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Australian aid workers released.



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

ALEXANDER DOWNER

 

2 September, 1999

FA93

 

AUSTRALIAN AID WORKERS RELEASED

 

I am very pleased to announce that a short time ago Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace were released from the Sremska Mitrovica prison outsi de Belgrade into the care of Australia’s Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Mr Chris Lamb.

 

Their release follows the granting of clemency by President Milosevic after intensive representations from the Australian, other governments and a number of official and non-government organisations. The President’s decision was conveyed to me last week by the Yugoslav Ambassador in Australia.

 

This is a moment of great joy and relief for the two men, their families and all those who have worked so hard over the past five months for their release. I am sure all Australians will be delighted with this news. Mr Pratt and Mr Wallace are now expected to return to Australia.

 

In recent weeks following the appeal process in the Yugoslav legal system, the Australian Government redoubled its efforts to secure the men’s release. My discussions with the Yugoslav Ambassador in recent days followed my further representations to Foreign Minister Jovanovic earlier in August and the Prime Minister’s letter in support of clemency to President Milosevic.

 

At the request of the Yugoslav Government, I sent three Australians from the Serbian community, Mr Ilija Glisic, Mr Goran Petrovic and Mr Nikola Stojadinovic to participate in the release ceremony. Two other Australians of Serbian background who were in Belgrade at the time also participated.

 

In the light of his heavy involvement in the campaign for the men’s release as the Government’s special envoy, I also sent Malcolm Fraser to Belgrade to be present at the prison for the release.

 

A great many people were involved in the campaign to bring about the men’s release. I thank in particular the Governor-General, Sir William Deane for his efforts in his capacity both as Governor-General and Patron of CARE Australia. I thank also Malcolm Fraser for his tireless work over the last five months, as well as Ambassador Lamb, Embassy staff and Departmental officials who have worked on this case since the men were first detained on 31 March. Many members of the Serbian community have also made helpful representations supporting release.

 

On the international front we were able to build one of the most effective international coalitions ever assembled by an Australian government in support of their case.

 

The Government is grateful to the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr Kofi Annan, the former South Mrican President Mr Nelson Mandela, President Ahtisaari of Finland, Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou and the Greek Government, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mrs Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mrs Mazy Robinson, Russian Envoy Mr Victor Chernomyrdin, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, former US President Mr Jimmy Carter, former US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger, and other members of the international community who have assisted the Australian Government on this case.

 

The men’s release removes a major impediment to our relations with Yugoslavia and will be welcomed by the many Australians who have family ties in Serbia.

 

Media contact: Innes Willox (02) 6277 7500

 

 

rw  1999-09-03  11:43