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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26340

Senator GREIG (2:52 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison. I ask the minister: is he aware of media reports which allege sexual and physical abuse by US marines against villagers in central Afghanistan? In light of this, does the government still maintain its position that US citizens should be granted immunity from investigation and potential prosecution by the International Criminal Court? Is it still the case that the Australian government is negotiating an agreement with the US so that its citizens would be immune from such an agreement?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —We have always respected the United States' stance in relation to the International Criminal Court. I am not aware of those recent reports that Senator Greig refers to. I will certainly have a look at those reports. In relation to the International Criminal Court, I will take it up with the Attorney-General to see if there is anything further I can add in relation to any negotiations or discussions we have had with the United States in that regard. But I am not aware of any.

Senator GREIG —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that, during estimates on 19 February this year, DFAT confirmed that the government was conducting `ongoing negotiations' towards a bilateral immunity agreement with the US at least as recently as December 2003? I ask the minister: is the refusal by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties to begin this inquiry, which was referred in December 2002, in any way due to political pressure from the government?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —We have had a longstanding approach to this issue. As to the foreign affairs estimates committee, I do not participate in that; that is not in my area. I will take that on notice and, if there is anything further to add, I will get back to the Senate.