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Anti-Russia Sanctions rely on False Statement by Julie Bishop, Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister

Julie Bishop is the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Recently she issued sanctions against Russia on the basis of a presumption that Flight MH17 had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile from Ukrainian territory under the control of Russian-backed separatists. Minister Julie Bishop justified these sanctions by repeating allegations by the Prime Minister of the causes and origins of damage to MH17 which she described as consistent with statements in the Preliminary Report by the Dutch Safety Board. In fact the Preliminary Report does not seem to contain any such evidence and it actually seems to contradict Ms Bishop's statement. (Furthermore, the ABC has long since apologised for promoting a similar view, agreeing that there is no conclusive evidence. See ABC Australia apologises for bias against Russia in reporting MH17 crash and general tag: http://candobetter.net/taxonomy/term/585.)

Crucial to any assumption of guilt, no-one has yet supplied a motive for Russia to have backed such an alleged attack on a passenger aircraft, but the United States has a history of false flag incidents involving aircraft.[1]
Whilst Russia lacked any apparent motive to shoot down a civilian aircraft intentionally, Kiev took advantage of the crash to escalate its armed assault on the area. The refusal of the US to provide satellite surveillance data requested by Russia is suspicious. An agreement signed on 8 August 2014 between Ukraine, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia giving any member of the agreement the right to veto publication of the results of the investigation is hardly reassuring for truth seekers.

Unwise polarisation

It is of great concern that Australia seems to be taking sides in formal foreign policy in an internationally tense situation between superpowers based on such prejudiced and premature interpretation of events.

Narrow public consultation

Prior to instituting these sanctions against Russia, DFAT advertised on its site and circularised some trade contacts requesting submissions regarding proposed sanctions and received only four. Two were confidential and two were entirely commercially oriented. There was no wider canvassing for submissions from the general public. It appears that there was no associated discussion about the forensic position on MH17 or the political consequences beyond narrow commercial ones. See correspondence with the legal department of the Sanctions Section at DFAT. [2]

Letter sent to DFAT re concerns

I have sent a letter to the Media Liaison Unit of DFAT, (reproduced in this article) asking for them to please point me to where the Dutch report bears out Ms Bishop's statement but have received no response in the past 12 days. A similar letter sent the same day to Prime Minister Abbott (who made similar statements on September 1) has also gone unanswered. See "Concern that Abbott position on MH17 has no solid basis and is unfair to Russia." I am therefore drawing this matter to public attention because I am concerned that our position against Russia is unwise and unjust in a time when increased international tension may magnify consequences and highlights the need for restraint.

Letter emailed by Sheila Newman to DFAT Media Liason on May 12, 2015.

Dear Sir/Madam,

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) Australian Parliament held an inquiry into the Treaty between Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the presence of Australian personnel in the Netherlands for the purpose of responding to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Because of the urgent nature of the treaty it was fast tracked under the National Interest Exemption provisions and came into effect on the date it was signed, 1 August 2014. The treaty was tabled in the Parliament on 30 September 2014 and the Committee called for submissions until 10 October 2014. The public hearing was held on 27 October 2014 and tabled its report on 12 February 2015. (Report 146: Treaty tabled on 30 September 2014)

In the statement referenced below promoting the Australian-Dutch Treaty by Julie Bishop, Ms Bishop repeats allegations by the Prime Minister of the causes and origins of damage to MH17 which she says are consistent with statements in the Preliminary Report by the Dutch Safety Board. Could your office please point me to where this report bears out Ms Bishop's statement highlighted below regarding the 'Australian Government's initial assessment' because I cannot find the evidence and the report actually seems to contradict Ms Bishop's statement below:

"On 9 September, the preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board into the incident was released. Its purpose is to determine the cause of the incident – not to attribute blame or liability.

I welcome the preliminary report as a clear step towards achieving the full, thorough and independent international investigation sought by Resolution 2166.

The damage to the aircraft documented in this preliminary report is consistent with the Australian Government’s initial assessment - voiced as early as the morning of 18 July - that MH17 had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile from Ukrainian territory under the control of Russian-backed separatists. [3]

On 19 September I attended a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York on MH17. Members of the Security Council firmly rejected Russia’s attempt to discredit the investigation into the downing of MH17 and reaffirmed their support for the International Dutch-led criminal investigation." Source: http://foreignminister.gov.au/speeches/Pages/2014/jb_sp_140930.aspx

HOWEVER, when you go to the actual Dutch preliminary report, what she says is not confirmed.

(1) The report describes multiple small holes consistent with a large number of 'high energy objects' penetrating the aircraft from outside; (2) The report does not seem to have anything to say about where those penetrating objects came from. I.e. it does not locate their origin at all let alone in the Russian- 'backed' separatists area.

"The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was consistent with the damage that would be expected from a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside." [The report contains a number of highly illustrative photos of aircraft exterior peppered with holes. ] Source:http://www.onderzoeksraad.nl/uploads/phase-docs/701/b3923acad0ceprem-rapport-mh-17-en-interactief.pdf

REFERENCES

[1] See for instance the Lockerbie bombing allegations where Libya was railroaded and the United States flouted international law. And the destruction of the Iran Airbus by the U.S.S. Vincennes during the summer of 1988 about six months before the Lockerbie bombing, in which a US Navy Captain shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988 and escaped with a bare minimum of sanctions. Boyle, Francis A. (2013-09-11). Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade US Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, Clarity Press. Discussion pp. 107-144.

[2] Dear Ms Newman

Thank you for your message.

As the Australian Government sanctions regulator, our primary role is responding to applications from Australian businesses for sanctions permits. You should direct any further concerns about Australian Government policies in relation to Russia to your local Member of Parliament.

As you know, the Australian Government announced the introduction of autonomous sanctions in relation to Russia in 2014. Here are the links to the Government’s statements in this regard:

Foreign Minister

Ukraine situation: Australia announces sanctions
http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2014/jb_mr_140319.aspx?ministerid=4

Further sanctions to support Ukraine
http://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2014/jb_mr_140521.aspx?ministerid=4

Sanctions in support of Ukraine commence
http://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2014/jb_mr_140619b.aspx?ministerid=4

Expanded sanctions against Russia come into force
http://www.foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2015/jb_mr_150331b.aspx?ministerid=4

Prime Minister
Expanded sanctions against Russia

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/2014-09-01/expanded-sanctions-against-russia

In amending the Autonomous Sanctions Regulations, DFAT conducted a public consultation process, which was advertised on DFAT’s website and emailed to our sanctions mailing list. The submissions that were not published were marked confidential by their authors.

Regards

Sanctions Section

_______________________________
Sanctions, Treaties and Transnational Crime Legal Branch
International Legal Division

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
www.dfat.gov.au/sanctions

[3] Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17
Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP
Speech, E&OE
Parliament House, Canberra
30 September 2014

"I rise today to table the Treaty between Australia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands on the presence of Australian personnel in the Netherlands for the purpose of responding to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The treaty is accompanied by a National Interest Analysis.

We live in an increasingly interconnected world where events far from home can have profound implications for us.
On 17 July, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. It was a civilian aircraft in civilian airspace, with the wreckage landing in a war zone. In a cruel twist of fate Australia was suddenly at the fulcrum of the Russia– Ukraine conflict.

Among those killed were 38 passengers who called Australia home - and another three with close links to Australia. We have been profoundly saddened by the loss of so many Australians. Among them: a 25 year-old travelling in Europe, like so many young Australians do; a couple, both doctors in Toowoomba, at the end of a six-week holiday; three young Western Australian children travelling with their grandfather, returning home for the start of the school term. All innocent people, for whom we continue to grieve.

In response to this horrific crime, the Government launched Operation Bring Them Home – our contribution to international efforts to secure, identify and repatriate the remains of the victims, to investigate the cause of the incident and to hold those responsible to account.

Australia authored UN Security Council Resolution 2166 which was endorsed unanimously on 21 July. It called for a ceasefire to access the crash site, and a full, thorough and independent investigation into the downing of MH17. During that debate I said:

“Our resolution demands that armed groups in control of the crash site provide safe access immediately to allow for the recovery of the bodies, and that these armed groups stop any actions that compromise the integrity of the crash site. This is imperative.

“There must be a ceasefire in the immediate area around the site. The victims must be treated with dignity, brought back to their homes and laid to rest. All parties are required to fully cooperate with these efforts. Russia must use its influence over the separatists to ensure this. Russia must also use its influence to bring the conflict in Ukraine to an end.
“Our resolution also demands a full, thorough and independent international investigation into this act. We must have answers. We must have justice. We owe it to the victims and their families to determine what happened and who was responsible.”

Over 500 Australian police, military, diplomatic and consular personnel were deployed to Ukraine and the Netherlands in support of these efforts.

As of today, 251 victims have been identified by the Identification Commission in The Hague. We have representation on that Commission and its work is assisted by a number of technical experts from Australia.

Out of respect for the families involved, I will not confirm the number of Australian victims that have been identified to date, however it will be some time before the identification process is complete. I attended two memorial services at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands and I acknowledge again the outstanding efforts of the Netherlands in bringing dignity and respect to the retrieval process.

In parallel to the process of recovering, identifying and repatriating remains, an investigation into the cause of the crash, as required by the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, is underway.

The investigation has broad international participation, drawing on experts from France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

On 9 September, the preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board into the incident was released. Its purpose is to determine the cause of the incident – not to attribute blame or liability.

I welcome the preliminary report as a clear step towards achieving the full, thorough and independent international investigation sought by Resolution 2166.

On 19 September I attended a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York on MH17. Members of the Security Council firmly rejected Russia’s attempt to discredit the investigation into the downing of MH17 and reaffirmed their support for the International Dutch-led criminal investigation.

At that meeting, I thanked the Government of the Netherlands for its professional leadership of the investigation. I underlined Australia’s commitment to return investigators to the crash site when it was safe to do so, in the company of our Dutch and Malaysian partners.

The separate Dutch-led investigation into who was responsible for this crime is an ongoing process. Australia has been providing all possible assistance. We are under no illusions about the challenges involved in identifying the perpetrators, but we are determined to do everything we can to deliver justice for the victims of MH17 and their families.
In order to deploy to, and operate in, the Netherlands, the Department of Defence and the Australian Federal Police required certain rights and protections.

The Netherlands advised that it was only able to grant such rights and protections under a treaty-status agreement, enforceable before Dutch courts of law.

This treaty defines the scope of permissible Australian activity in the Netherlands. It provides that Australians deployed to the Netherlands remain under Australia’s command and control, and that any necessary administrative or disciplinary action will be taken by Australia, not the Netherlands. The Treaty extends privileges and immunities to Australian personnel, and authorises them to carry weapons. It enables them to wear field uniforms; and regulates information sharing and disclosure.

The Treaty was signed and entered into force on 1 August this year. The Government relied on the National Interest Exemption to take binding treaty action before the Treaty was tabled in Parliament. This was imperative to ensure that all necessary personnel and equipment could be deployed to the Netherlands without delay, and to ensure that all personnel (including those present in the Netherlands before the Treaty’s entry into force) were accorded appropriate protections.
Responding to crises such the tragic downing of MH17 is the type of situation envisaged by the National Interest Exemption.

From the moment we heard the news of this tragedy, Australia has played a critical role in the international response.
I again pay tribute to the large number of dedicated Australians who worked tirelessly and are still working to retrieve and identify remains, liaise with family members, and investigate the shooting down of MH17.

I commend the Treaty to Parliament as a critical element of the legal framework that was necessary to ensure that representatives of our country have all of the rights and protections they need to continue to fulfil our commitment to bring our people home."

[End quoted speech by Minister Julie Bishop]

[Letter Signed] Thank you for your help in this inquiry,

Sheila Newman
Editor
http://candobetter.net/node/1882

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