The AFP Insists “We Do Not Have Blood On Our Hands” Over Bali 9 Executions

The executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last week, a decade-long legal stoush was brought to a dramatic and sad conclusion. The Bali 9 pair were shot by a firing squad on Indonesia’s Nusakambangan Island in the early hours of last Wednesday morning.

The group’s arrest was the result of a tip off given to Indonesian authorities as part of a larger investigation conducted by the Australian Federal Police.
The AFP, by and large, has refused to answer questions on the matter – particularly their handling of the tip off, knowing it would expose Australian citizens to potential death penalties – citing the on-going legal appeals process for both Chan and Sukumaran, as primary reasons for their silence.
AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin, and deputy commissioners Michael Phelan and Leanne Close fronted the media today to explain and defend the actions of the AFP, as well as to shed light on their processes and the personal toll the case took on their officers.
The AFP remained steadfast in defending the role they played in the initial investigation, but their stance was not without sympathy. Colvin in particular made a point of specifically mentioning Scott Rush‘s father, who was widely reported to have made the initial tipoff to the AFP – only to be horrified when it resulted in the actions that it did.

“I want to take the pressure off Scott Rush’s father. A lot of the way it’s been reported is that his tip-off led to this. It didn’t. I feel for Mr Rush that it’s been portrayed that way. The AFP was already aware of, and had commenced investigating, what we believed was a syndicate that was actively recruiting couriers to import narcotics to Australia at the time of Mr Rush’s contact with the AFP.”

Great emphasis was placed on explaining the circumstances surrounding the AFP’s operational framework back in 2005, which at the time was geared more towards transnational cooperation and has since been amended to ensure greater protection of Australian citizens abroad from the death penalty. Deputy Commissioner Phelan himself was at pains to hand over the information back in 2005, explaining how he agonised over the decision.

“I agonised over it at the time. As a matter of fact when the first decision was made to hand over information to the Indonesians by lower level officers I stopped it because I wanted to have a full briefing on everything that was happening at the time… to have as much information as I could to authorise the activity.”

“I’ve agonised over it for 10 years now, and every time I look back I still think it’s a difficult decision. But given what I knew at that particular time, and what our officers knew, I would take a lot of convincing to make a different decision.”

The AFP asserts that, at the time, they were working with a very incomplete picture of events and evidence that would only become clear once those involved were in Indonesia and began the process of committing the crime. This prevented the AFP from making arrests before the group left the country.

“At the time we were working with a very incomplete picture. We didn’t know everybody involved, we didn’t know all the plans, or even what the illicit commodity was likely to be. At this time AFP consulted and engaged our Indonesian partners and asked for their assistance. It was operationally appropriate and it was consistent with the guidelines as they existed then.”

And it was this uncertainty and the need for transnational cooperation – as the guidelines of 2005 dictated – that prevented the AFP from pursuing arrests upon the group’s return to Australian soil. Once the decision to share the information with Indonesian authorities was made, the AFP had no control over how Police and Prosecutors in Bali would proceed.

“This is the harsh reality for Australians who go overseas and become involved in serious crimes.”

The AFP revealed they have hundreds of cases and pieces of information that they deal with involving Australians abroad, but that guarantees about preventing a repeat of this case in light of the executions of Chan and Sukumaran cannot be made.

“I’d love to give you a guarantee that that won’t happen. But no two scenarios are same. When we commence an investigation we cannot always predict where that investigation may lead.”

“That’s the reality of the situation. We have a strong objection to the death penalty. The AFP takes it seriously.”

Senior members of the AFP are due to face Parliamentary questioning over their handling of the case at a Senate Estimates hearing scheduled to take place later this month.

Photo via Twitter.
via SMH and ABC News.