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No safe havens for terrorists.

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22 November 2002 133/02


No Commonwealth country will be a safe haven for terrorists following a landmark agreement reached by Commonwealth Law Ministers at their 13th meeting held in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

On my initiative Law Ministers issued a strong statement condemning terrorism and reaffirming their commitment to assisting one another in the fight against terrorism.

In a unanimous agreement, Ministers took a major step by removing the political offence exception from the London Scheme for extradition. This scheme provides a framework for extradition arrangements for all Commonwealth countries.

Once implemented in domestic law, this change will remove the possibility of terrorists avoiding extradition by claiming their action was politically motivated. Law Ministers will urge their Governments to amend their domestic legislation as soon as possible.

Law Ministers recognised that no Commonwealth country is safe from terrorism and that every country is as vulnerable as the weakest link. Law Ministers unanimously condemned terrorism. They vowed to develop and enhance appropriate legal frameworks within their domestic laws and to assist each other in that work. Law Ministers have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen existing schemes for cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

I made it clear to Law Ministers that Australia stands ready to do its part to assist other members of the Commonwealth of Nations to strengthen their capacity to fight terrorism.

Law Ministers recognised the need for further work to address the threat posed by the misuse of technology and the need to develop law enforcement networks for information exchange and cooperation. Law Ministers also tasked their Senior Officials to consider amendments to the Harare scheme relating to intercepting communications, preserving computer data, seizing and forfeiting assets, and asset sharing in ways which could lead to better compensation for the victims of terrorism.

Media Contact: Jennifer Grove (Perth) (08) 9316 3633/ 0407 467 870

The Law Ministers’ statement builds on the important initiatives taken by the Leaders at the meeting of Heads of Government held in March 2002 at Coolum, in ensuring that strong legal frameworks are put in place to fight the scourge of terrorism.

Drawing upon our common legal heritage, these initiatives will strengthen counter-terrorism legal measures and cooperation across the Commonwealth.