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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2899

Senator WEBSTER (VICTORIA) -My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the reports which suggest that another mass execution of Ethiopian citizens and others by the present military regime there is imminent? ls .the Minister aware that reports have been issued within the last week which indicate that at least 60 people were executed without trial following their being held in custody and that one of those citizens happened to be a Mr E. Makonnen who was the World President of the Young Men's Christian Association and who had done much to bring assistance to the less fortunate people of that area? Is concern felt by the Australian Government as to this action and to possible future action? Can the Minister state what Australia has done officially on this matter or what it intends to do?

Senator WILLESEE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) -I understand that the position as set out by Senator Webster is basically correct. He was careful to use the word reports'. These reports, which are all we have to go on, state that there were 61 former Cabinet Ministers and government officials executed, including two former Prime Ministers- one Mr Wolde and the other Mr Makonnen, who was indeed World President of the YMCA. I think that not only the Government but also everybody in this House views with very great concern any situation anywhere in which the fundamental rules of justice, including the right to a fair and independent trial, are abused. If the reports are correct the Government deeply regrets the summary execution of 6 1 former Ministers and officials in Ethiopia and hopes that the remaining detainees held by the Ethiopian military command will be given fair trials. The Australian High Commissioner has just returned from Ethiopia to Nairobi. He indicates that so far there have been no civil disturbances in Ethiopia following the executions and that Australian residents are in no danger at present. However, he is watching the situation carefully and, if there is any suggestion that Australians are in any danger, either he or a member of his staff will return.

I have given some consideration to what Australia could do in this matter. As the honourable senator knows, we have no permanent representative in Addis Ababa itself. We cover Ethiopia from Nairobi. So it would be a slow son of process to make contact in Addis Ababa even if we could. In these circumstances the Ethiopian Government might not even receive our Ambassador. I have asked Sir Laurence Mclntyre, Australia 's Ambassador to the United Nations to tell the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who has already written to the Ethiopian authorities making known his concern about this matter, that we agree wholeheartedly with those views and wish to be associated with his protest. At the same time I have asked Sir Laurence Mclntyre to make known the views of the Australian Government to the Ethiopian authorities in New York.

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