Tuesday, October 7, 2008

International Politics and Schapelle Corby

In the latest Schapelle video I have used the phrase "Australia's strategic relationship with Indonesia trumps Schapelle Corby's human rights". Perhaps this is a good time to elaborate a little on this.

Australian-Indonesian relations are of enormous importance on the world stage. Why? Broadly speaking, because Indonesia is a Muslim majority country of over 220 million people which is not currently under the control of religious fundamentalists. It is thus relatively closer to the West than a number of other similar cultures. It is therefore seen as strategically important that its political stance with respect to the West remains stable, particularly regarding issues such as terrorism. Australia, through its proximity, is clearly instrumental in maintaining this equilibrium.

None of this is particularly contentious. It is fairly obvious. It has been the case for many years.

And then came the Schapelle Corby case. I am sure that Australians will recall the events of 2004/5 reasonably clearly. The show trial, the barbaric sentence, and the clear breaches of Schapelle's human and legal rights caused uproar.

The repercussions of this were also political. For example: John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister writing to the judge; the Indonesian president again breaching Schapelle's human rights by urging the court to 'send a signal' to Australians;.... the case was rocking the strategic relationship between those two nations. At the time many Australians were also urging a direct response to free her. This was suddenly a significant political issue.

And politicians are politicians. Howard was in a corner: the people of Australia wanted her to be freed, but to the West, and to politicians, the international relationship was vital. No prizes therefore for guessing which took precedence.

But how? How could the Australian government extract itself from the hook of public opinion?

Again, no prizes for guessing: the media.

The media are of course expert at influencing opinion. This happens in every nation: the press are never neutral. In this situation though they quickly saw a win-win scenario.

Media proprietors are not stupid. They understood all of the above. They will also have had high level contact with the government. They will have known the reasons for the government's back tracking, and will have believed this to be in the national interest. Politically alone, they will have decided to support Howard on this issue.

But they also saw years of revenue spinning headlines, through smears, insinuation, and gutter journalism. They eagerly grabbed the winning hand. The loser was Schapelle. The loser was human dignity, and human worth.

This is the REAL hidden truth, but it is not really hidden. It is obvious to those who see the world objectively and are not naive enough to simply believe the sound bites they are fed by those who always have an ulterior motive (either commercial or political).

It is cruel, and it is vile. But it is reality.

So take your pick: choose human dignity and compassion and support Schapelle, or go for political expediency and walk away.

The video explains the crude implementation of this media agenda, via a six step process. There is nothing clever or unique about this procedure: it is a process which has been used often in the past, most regularly under regimes of a dubious nature. It outlines each step, and explains the intended impact in terms of public perception.

It can be viewed directly here:

Creating a video of this nature is emotionally draining, so I will take a short break before working on the next. Rest assured though: there will be a next.


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Friday, August 1, 2008

Destruction of Evidence and Indonesia's Shame

There were so many breaches of Schapelle Corby's legal and human rights during her harrowing show trial that it is difficult to know where to start when referencing them. Whilst many of these are listed in our case assessment, I intend to examine some of them in more detail, via occasional log entries.

The first port of call will be the core evidence itself: the marijuana.

It is fairly well known that the police and regime:
- refused to forensically test the drugs for country of origin
- refused to fingerprint or DNA them
... despite Schapelle Corby's desperate pleas.

Even with familiarity with these facts though, they are still staggering. They are a stain on an entire nation's integrity.

Testing marijuana for country of origin is a straight forward procedure. Pollen and other territorial dependent material is always present, which makes it quite simple to pin-point the source.

So.... if that source was Indonesia.... the case collapses, instantly. Schapelle Corby could not have imported it. Indonesia loses its high profile drugs case, which would have hindered its attempts to procure a fortune in external funding.

Her begging for those tests to be conducted was simply ignored.

If Schapelle Corby had ever touched those drugs or their wrapping, she would have left DNA or fingerprints behind: a fantastic opportunity for the prosecution to nail her beyond any doubt. Hang on... they didn't perform those checks. Not only did they not perform these BASIC elementary checks, they REFUSED Schapelle Corby's formal requests to perform them! Yes: refused.

Why? The obvious answer is that Schapelle's DNA and fingerprints were not there... and they knew it.... or at least they couldn't risk it. They couldn't risk it because, again, the case against her would be exposed, along with that external funding.

Her begging for due investigation was again completely ignored.

We know the outcome.... incredibly, they convicted her... and shamefully sentenced her to a barbaric 20 year term (yes, more than rapists and murderers can often expect). She is still there now, suffering terribly because of it.

But it doesn't even end here! What does a criminal do to evidence to cover his tracks? To ensure that his actions can never be exposed?

He destroys it, of course.

The Indonesian regime is no different. Those drugs were a risk: testing them for country of origin, or DNS/fingerprinting them, could clear Schapelle Corby at any stage. They had to go.

They were therefore gleefully burned... again despite Schapelle Corby's desperate pleas to retain them.

Incredible, isn't it. Here is a so-called court willfully destroying the evidence which could clear the defendant of a crime. Rather than testing it, they burned it, with the defendant in tears. I can't even begin to imagine how she must have felt.

Is anybody happy with this? Can anyone even attempt to justify any of it, in any way at all? It is frankly, inhuman.

Yet this is just one illustration of how she never had a chance... none at all. She didn't have a trial: only a pre-ordained show trial. Schapelle Corby was a resource to be used in a much bigger game. Her terror and continued suffering were not, and are still not, even on the radar.

All the innuendo and false reporting in the world will not change these facts. They will continue to haunt the Indonesian regime, and their apologists, until the day Schapelle Corby is released from her living hell.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fiscal Politics & Corruption: The Mood Music For Human Suffering

Some aspects of fiscal politics are transparent. For example, the fact that Indonesia is a net recipient of direct and indirect UN funding for the so-called 'war on drugs' and related crime. Not that the source of this inward investment is just the UN: far from it. But that's for another post on another day. We will stick with the UN for now.

It is important to understand that this is BIG money. Billions of dollars are swilling around. One agency alone, the UNODC (UN Office on Drugs and Crime), had an annual official budget of US$332 million last year (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/donors/index.html). That's a nice pot of course: but let's continue to state the obvious... recipient nations seek the biggest cut of this that they can possibly attract.

It is also important to understand at this juncture that it isn't just a matter of cash donations. Investment is often allocated via 'projects'. A nation and its regime will benefit fiscally by the very presence of a project office and staff in their territory. It is a complex mix of funding, but it is funding on a truly massive scale.

Naturally, nations and regimes compete vigorously in this lucrative 'market'. And surprise surprise, the UNODC does indeed have a project and project staff in Indonesia.

Of course, the obvious question is: how do the UN (and the other sources) determine where the investment/money goes? Clearly, they don't just stick a pin in a map and pour money in at random. No: it is applied for... in theory it has to be justified. Recipients will have to show that there is a major drug production, import, or export issue. The stakes are high.

Yes, we are finally there: high profile cases like Schapelle Corby's are therefore extremely valuable indeed. This is not rocket science, it is obvious, but it frames the backdrop to the whole show trial. Think about it.

Then there is corruption. Of course, the UN always makes sure that before allocating any investment at all, the recipient regime has a robust and corrupt free judicial system in place. No, wait... that's not true... they don't.

I know: it isn't an issue for flippancy, however deserving the UN may be of some scorn here. They SHOULD make sure that there is no scope for corruption BEFORE allocating investments, as should ALL inward investors to regimes like this one. But they don't. Indeed, in June 2008, even one of the UN's own agencies (UNDP) published a report describing a new initiative in this area: http://www.undp.or.id/factsheets/CorruptionFS-June2008-small.pdf. Good work! But what about pre-2008?

The implication of all this, of course, is that it isn't only the regime/system/police/etc who may benefit from the investment and funding obtained. Individuals too may benefit from a bigger pot to feed from. Yes, it just gets worse and worse.

The above are mere surface scratches and generalities: but I intend to dig deeper and will publish what I find. So far though, all direct approaches to the UN have been completely ignored. I understand that this is not an area which they will be anxious to discuss, but they should understand that they too are accountable. To retain credibility, they must not hide information, including outward investment and donation details. They should also understand that I am not going to go away anytime soon, and that there are plenty of others asking exactly the same questions as I am.

When a single individual, like Schapelle Corby, finds herself in the middle of all this motivational and high finance mire.... let's just say that it is clearly a matter upon which governments should be acting. Perhaps the Australian government might care to get off its idle backside and actually DO something, rather than play pander politics with those who abuse their citizens.

The UN might also ask itself how it squares creating a drug/crime investment model which simultaneously provides motivation for the wholesale breaching of their own conventions on human rights.

Would you care to comment, Mr Costa (UNODC exec director and spokesman)? Please use the form below, sir.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

A Message to Indonesia

Until March 2008 I had no issue at all with your country. Quite the contrary: until that date my company sourced a significant amount of its external development work from Indonesia. This has since been stopped, of course.

The fact is though that I am not the first, and won't be the last, to form an extremely negative impression of Indonesia as a result of your cruel, unjust and disproportionate treatment of Schapelle Corby. I, and a growing number if others in the future, will not visit your country, invest in it, or purchase services/products from it. In addition to the economics, the reputation and status of your country is also seriously damaged and impaired.

From this point of view, surely even on your own criteria (whatever they are), the continued imprisonment of Schapelle defies logic (and I know for a fact that many of your own citizens agree with me). Even ignoring the 'trial' itself, which any objective international observer would find serious problems with, a wholly disproportionate sentence of 20 years... it beggers belief. Even more so when those found guilty of far more serious crimes in Indonesia receive just a fraction of that sentence. Surely you can see why this is such an issue, and one which won't go away?

So why don't you address it? You must see how Indonesia looks to people, and how impartial observers change their opinion of your country when the case is brought to their attention? Why don't you resolve the issue, and release her?

I have tried long and hard to try to understand what reasons you could possibly have for keeping Schapelle in captivity. All I can imagine is some sort of grotesquely misplaced national pride. But can't you see how it REALLY makes you look? Any nation which imprisons a young woman to demonstrate its own strength is not seen as strong, but as cowardly and disgusting. Can you not see that reality? Can you not see that changing position shows strength and not weakness?

I guess not. I can only assume that what we are dealing with is indeed a rather pathetic set of people, who wish to hide their vile nature by hurting those who cannot defend themselves. And trust me, many many others will reach the same conclusion.

Regarding Indonesia, a colleague from Manchester University suggested recently that in many respects the case and sentence were acts of state terrorism.

Terrorism? Well... most of the people in my locale who are aware of the Schapelle Corby case would be no more likely to visit Indonesia now than Afghanistan, Iran or any war zone state. And no, it isn't only through natural revulsion at what they have done and are doing to Schapelle, but a wider perception of how this translates to that regime's innate position and hostility to western culture and the free world.

The definition of state terrorism lacks consensus, but a number of aspects are widely accepted. UN Resolution 1566, for example, specified the following: "criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act."

Let's consider this for a moment. "Criminal acts"? This implies the breaching of a law or perhaps of a UN convention. Both these are clearly evident with respect to the judicial mistreatment of Schapelle Corby. The assessment on Schapelle.Net demonstrates systematic breaches of the Indonesian Code of Criminal Procedure and the UN International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. Hence, the case itself could be viewed as constituting a whose series of 'criminal acts'.

Now consider "against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages". Schapelle Corby is a civilian. Her imprisonment was demonstrably unlawful... thus she is being held unlawfully. Place this in the context of the Indonesian President making dark statements during the trial regarding "drug smugglers" and it becomes clear that the term 'hostage' is not misplaced.

And of course "the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons" is overtly covered because the 'group of persons' are clearly the "group of persons" who consume cannabis (for example) and may be tempted to cross borders in possession. Essentially, WHOEVER the message was actually meant for (and there was a message, so it was clearly meant for someone) Schapelle was being used to intimidate a group of persons (or "a section of the public" as defined over here in the UK by our legislation).

On the Indonesian Government's own commentary, we have a young woman undergoing severe mental torture to influence a group of unrelated persons. Perhaps the correct term for this is indeed terrorism.

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Schapelle.Net is Born

Online media may be geeky and boring, but it does mean that creating a website is second nature. Hence, my first and most obvious step to support Schapelle was to create Schapelle.net.

The objectives of the site were clear enough from the start:
- Help take the story to others who might be prepared and positioned to help
- Arm visitors with some resources to help them to help her
- Present the information in a suitable manner for international visitors, rather than just Australians, most of whom have previously encountered the info via other means
- Ultimatey, to help others apply pressure upon all parties positioned to actually do something concrete to help get Schapelle home.

One aspect of the development which I was clear on from the start was independence. If the site is seen in any way to be connected to Schapelle, or her family or friends, it can, in theory at least, be used against her by the forces of evil.

For this reason, the site makes it absolutely clear that it is run from here in the UK, by someone who has never even met or spoken to those in Australia who are associated with Schapelle herself.

Those in Indonesia (or elsewhere) who don't like what I am doing will therefore need to come to terms with the facts:
- The site reflects reality: that is the show trial and the appalling cruelty of what they are doing to Schapelle
- If my research (which has been precise and diligent) leads me to feel strongly about this, the same will apply to a hell of a lot of other people too. People across the whole world will continue to view them in the same way as I do.
- The site itself is fundamentally a product of THEIR OWN actions: it would not exist if there wasn't a massive problem. If they don't like it therefore, they need to address the problem itself, and not seek to blame those like me, who simply react to it.

As with many websites, this one will not remain static. It will continue to be built as new resources become available for the campaign, and as it continues to be promoted. It is also not going to go away (unless something happens to me of course).

The next stage though is visibility. A website is useless unless it is seen. I will therefore be working to address this, and to ensure that the facts outlined within the site are exposed to as many people as possible.

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The Beginning: Morpheus Meets Schapelle Corby

Until March 2008 I had never heard of Schapelle Corby. I am a busy guy: I run an internet business and have a wife and family to occupy any surplus time beyond that. I am also a Brit, and live on the other side of the planet to the locale of these events. The whole harrowing story had therefore escaped my attention completely.

Then it happened, the fateful search on 'Google Images'. I recall it quite vividly. I was seeking an image or design for one of our less than exciting legal web portals, and searched on something like 'law court', 'legal case' or similar. Amongst the myriad of search returns, which largely comprised thumbnails of grainy old judges and gavels, was the following:

It stood out like a sore thumb: a disturbing picture of innocence in distress. Like a fool I clicked it, totally unaware of the horror of I would subsequently uncover.

The text in the accompanying news article was stark and brutal. This young woman had been sentenced to 20 years in an Indonesian prison cell for apparently (yes, we'll come back to that) smugging cannabis into that country. STOP THERE! I certainly did. I stopped and re-read it. 20 YEARS? Surely not. Surely in any realistic scenario it will have been quashed or dramatically reduced on appeal?

Even from that first article it was also very clear that this was no ordinary 'trial'. There were scattered references to aspects which were quite simply outrageous. Off the top of my head I recall the refusal by police to forensically test the cannabis for origin, the refusal to fingerprint it, as well as some of the less than objective comments by the 'judge' during the trial itself. Yes, right from the off it had the pungent whiff of a show trial, transplanted to the modern era from the middle ages.

I felt a little sick as I rapidly searched Google on the term 'Schapelle Corby', half hoping and half expecting balance and sanity to be restored during the rest of the legal process. It quickly became apparent that this was not to be: other forces were at work. At the same pace, it became apparent that the issues above were just the tip of a very murky iceberg. Researching the trial and the circus around it revealed that the process had nothing whatsoever to do with seeking truth and justice, and everything to do with politics, corruption, and misplaced nationalist vengeance.

As with everyone who has scratched the surface of this, a host of questions entered my mind:
- Why was this allowed to happen?
- What the hell have the Aussie's been doing during the last 4 years?
- Why is no-one screaming at Indonesia that they have to respect human rights and release her?
- Can I do anything?

The former questions I will discuss in later posts: the answers reflect badly on just about everyone except Schapelle and her family. The last question though was the most frustrating in the immediate term: I really really HATE feeling utterly powerless, especially with respect to something important. But what could I possibly do? I thought 'nothing', so bookmarked the original page, and got on with running the company.

Well... that was the plan anyway. In reality I couldn't let it go. It was like a splinter in my mind. The vision of this poor woman suffering in a cage, and the barbarity of the sentence, returned frequently during the rest of the day. I even had difficulty sleeping.

The next day, back to the legal portal and thus the immediate trigger to put Schapelle back on the agenda for my thought processes. I delegated the portal development and spent some time conducting a more formal and detailed research exercise. The more I dug, the more unjust and hideously cruel it became. I therefore knew that I had to at least do SOMETHING to try to help.... however little help that might actually be.

Retrospectively, my journey was apparently exactly the same route as that embarked upon by most other decent folks: initial distress, anger at and hatred of those responsible, more distress, then frustration. I wanted to go to Bali and break her out personally.

But rationale and reality clearly has to prevail in the end, so I settled for using my skills and assets from here in the UK. The first manifestation of this was the development of this website, which the next post will cover.

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