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Thursday, 24 February 2011
Page: 1416

Mr RUDD (Minister for Foreign Affairs) (1:51 PM) —by leave—The Australian government condemns without reservation the use of violence in Libya against its population. Reports are that about 300 lives have been lost, but some estimates are as high as 1,000 lives having been lost. Colonel Gaddafi’s threat to purge Libya, house by house and inch by inch, of the protest movement is a despicable act. The international community has a responsibility to take firm action in response. These are serious matters.

I warmly welcome the call by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, for an international investigation into possible human rights violations. The Human Rights Commission will meet this Friday, and it is critical that the council give careful consideration to how best to respond to Libya’s crisis. I will travel to Geneva to attend a special session of the Human Rights Council early next week and will urge prompt and united action by the international community in terms of these human rights violations in Libya.

The Australian government also welcomes the Arab League’s strongly worded statement yesterday following its emergency talks and the league’s decision to suspend Libya from the Arab League. The UN Security Council met yesterday and, in its statement, called on the government of Libya to meet its responsibility to protect its civilian population. This is an alive doctrine in international law which the Libyan regime should pay close attention to in terms of its implications for the future.

I also note with concern that the Australian government has received reports that an Australian citizen may have been detained by Libyan officials on the evening of 21 February 2011 in Tripoli. The Australian consul general in Tripoli has requested confirmation of the reported detention by diplomatic note and is seeking immediate consular access. No response has been received from the Libyan authorities. A dual Australian-Libyan national was also reported to us on 6 December 2010 as being detained. Australia’s consul general has also requested by diplomatic note that Libyan authorities confirm whether this person has been detained and has requested immediate consular access. Libyan authorities have confirmed his detention but have not provided consular access.

Today I called in Libya’s ambassador to Australia. I reminded the ambassador that, under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Libya has a responsibility to advise of the detention of a foreign national and, furthermore, to allow consular access to Australian consular officials. I conveyed to the Libyan ambassador Australia’s expectation that immediate consular access be granted to these men in accordance with Libya’s international obligations. We are also in close contact with these men’s families and are providing them with consular assistance.

The Australian government currently has 47 registered Australians still in Libya. Another 12 are on board a ferry waiting to depart Tripoli. Another four are on a privately organised charter ferry in Tripoli which will leave around this time. Of those still in Libya, 35 wish to depart, and we have been unable to contact 12. We call on the Libyan government to immediately facilitate visas for our Australian consular staff to enter Libya to assist with the evacuation of Australians. At present, no such visas have been issued. Our consul general, backed only by local staff, is managing this consular crisis on his own. He is doing an excellent job on Australia’s behalf.