HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014
(TAKEN FROM Latest Hansard Documents, week of 2 Jun 2014, House Hansard)
Rivas, Ms Adriana
Mr DREYFUS (Isaacs—Deputy Manager of Opposition Business) (19:40): I rise to present to the House a petition from more than 600 members of the Chilean community in Australia and their supporters. It has been considered by the Standing Committee on Petitions and found to be in order.
In the petition, the members of the Chilean community are urging the government to extradite Ms Adriana Rivas to Chile to face criminal charges. The charges concern her alleged involvement in violent crimes committed by the intelligence services of the Pinochet military dictatorship.
In March this year, the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program revealed that Ms Rivas was living in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and working as a nanny. She has been in Australia since 1978, and was arrested while on a trip back to Chile in
2006. This is a unique case in that extradition is sought after criminal proceedings were fully underway. Ms Rivas fled Chile in 2010 while on bail, awaiting trial. She is a fugitive from justice.
It is alleged in the criminal proceedings in Chile that Ms Rivas was involved in the interrogation and immensely cruel torture of at least 12 victims of the Pinochet regime by its secret police, the Direccion de Inteligencia Nacional, the DINA. It is alleged that Rivas was assistant to the head of the DINA, Manuel Contreras. A key prosecution witness told the ABC:
… when … Rivas participated in the torture of the detainees, she beat them with sticks, she kicked them, punched them and also applied an electric current to [them] …
Though it is the policy of all Australian governments not to comment on extradition matters, it has been publicly reported that the Chilean Supreme Court made a formal request for Ms Rivas’s extradition earlier this year. I understand that this request has been received by the Attorney-General’s Department and is under consideration by the Commonwealth government.
It is almost impossible to overstate the seriousness of the allegations made against Ms Rivas.
Torture is an abhorrent crime. The use of torture is not just an abuse by the state of its powers. It is a denial of the humanity of the victim. The special repugnance of torture is acknowledged by global civil society. The prohibition on torture is recognised as one of only a handful of fundamental principles of international law from which there are no exceptions, no exemptions, and no derogations.
Australia has a long tradition of work to rid our world of this terrible crime. Labor foreign minister and later parliamentary leader Doc Evatt helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Hawke government signed and ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1985 and 1989. Under the Labor government in May 2009 Australia signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. This is a legacy of which I am proud. I hope that the present government continues to work on the process of ratifying the optional protocol.
Though we are lucky to live in a country free of torture, Chile has not been so fortunate. I have a close personal connection with Chile and its people. My wife was born in Chile. I have visited Chile several times, and I lived there with my family in the first half of 1995.
Some members of the Chilean community who have spoken to me about the extradition of Ms Rivas are themselves survivors of torture or political violence. All Chileans will have friends or family who have suffered in some way. A number of members of the Australian Chilean community are here in the gallery tonight, and I would like to acknowledge them and their concern about this issue.
Before the 1970s, Chile had enjoyed political stability and parliamentary democracy since the late 19th century. The wounds the country suffered in the madness after the 1973 coup, however, are still not fully healed.
The prosecution of torturers is an important part of the path forward for Chile. I call on the Australian government to hear the concerns of those who have signed this petition. I hope the government will move swiftly to ensure that justice is done by doing everything possible to return Adriana Rivas to Chile to face the trial from which she fled. I present the petition.
The petition read as follows—
To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives
This petition of: members of the Chilean community in Australia, draws to the attention of the House the request from the Chilean government for the extradition of Mrs. Adriana Rivas Mrs Rivas is a fugitive from Justice who has been living in Australia free from prosecution. She was arrested in 2006 and processed by the judiciary for her involvement in the aggravated kidnapping
and torture of at least 12 people, none of whom survived. Mrs Rivas escaped whilst on house arrest.
We therefore ask the House to: grant the request for extradition so that Mrs. Rivas can be prosecuted for her crimes in Chile. In memory of those that were silenced by the Pinochet dictatorship, we respectfully request that the House takes into consideration the pain and suffering inflicted upon the Chilean people. For over forty years, families of the victims have been seeking justice for their loved ones. Mrs. Rivas like many of her cohorts, must be held accountable for her actions.
We are troubled by the fact that someone with her criminal background has been allowed to live in Australia and we seek clarification from the Australian government regarding her residency. We encourage the House to look favourably upon our request to support the extradition process for Mrs. Rivas from 608 citizens