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Jack Straw addresses Parliament on Bali attacks

Foreign Secretary addresses Parliament on Bali attacks

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has set out measures taken by the Foreign Office to assist those injured and the relatives and friends of victims of the Bali attacks in a statement to the House of Commons.

He also reinforced the apology made by Baroness Amos to families involved, saying: 'I am very sorry that shortcomings in getting sufficient extra staff on the ground in Bali early enough last week exacerbated the terrible burden the families were under.'

He said:

"The atrocity in Kuta was a brutal reminder that the campaign against terrorism did not end with the removal of the Taliban. The reality is that our campaign will take years, perhaps even decades."

He said in conclusion:

"The atrocity in Bali confirmed that our citizens are vulnerable wherever they are in the world. The terrorists' aim is to defeat the universal values of the United Nations of tolerance, freedom and respect for human life and replace them with brutality, fear and ethnic and religious hatred."


FULL TEXT FOLLOWS

STRAW ADDRESSES COMMONS ON BALI ATTACKS (21/10/02)


STATEMENT BY THE FOREIGN SECRETARY, JACK STRAW, HOUSE OF COMMONS, LONDON, MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2002

With permission Mr Speaker I should like to make a statement about the terrorist attack in Bali on Saturday 12 October.

In his statement to the House on Tuesday last my RHF the Prime Minister set out the circumstances as we knew them about the attack, and its consequences. The most up-to-date information is this.

In total over 180 people of many nationalities are thought to have died in the attack. Of these, at least half were Australian. Many Indonesians died. Of the British citizens caught up in the blast, 11 are now confirmed as dead, and a further 22 are missing, sadly themselves presumed to be dead. At least 27 British citizens were injured, a number of whom have been medevaced to Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. There may be other British injured among the unidentified in intensive care.

The House joined the Prime Minister last week in sending its deepest sympathies to the relatives of the victims. It is every parent's worse nightmare to hear that their sons and daughters have been swept up in a tragedy. But when bereavement is compounded by having to travel halfway across the world to identify loved ones, the experience is truly unimaginable.

Mr Speaker, yesterday we joined with the people of Australia who held a day of national mourning for this, the worst terrorist outrage in that country's history. Here flags were flown at half-mast on Buckingham Palace and on our Embassies and High Commissions around the world. The Australian High Commission is arranging a memorial service in St Paul's on 25 October. The Indonesian Embassy will be holding a commemorative ceremony on 22 October. The Government will organise a British memorial service. We shall be consulting the families about what they think would be most appropriate.

Mr Speaker, let me now update the House on the action we have taken to assist those injured and the relatives and close friends of all who were victims in this atrocity.

The British Honorary Consulate in Bali provided the initial assistance to survivors of the attack, and to victims' relatives. This was reinforced early on Sunday 13 October by the British Consul and then by the Ambassador, Richard Gozney, other staff, and volunteers from the British community.

These staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly and I pay my tribute to them.

Mr Speaker, however, on Thursday I learnt of complaints by some families that they had not received the service we should have provided. I asked my Noble Friend Baroness Amos, who was already travelling to Bali, to talk to all the families concerned and to make her own assessment about the complaints. In the light of this, my Noble Friend apologised direct to the families concerned.

I reinforced this apology on Friday and, Mr Speaker, would like to repeat it in the House. I am very sorry that shortcomings in getting sufficient extra staff on the ground in Bali early enough last week exacerbated the terrible burden the families were under in any event.

Mr Speaker, as of today, there are 15 British officials in Bali, and 32 British police officers – including experienced Family Liaison Officers and anti-terrorist experts working with the Indonesian and Australian police on the investigation into the attack itself.

In London, the emergency consular unit established overnight on Saturday 12 October, and working with New Scotland Yard, has continued in operation.

Last Wednesday, I announced a package of measures designed to help relatives to travel to where their loved ones were being treated, or to where victims had died. The scheme – similar to that put in place after September 11 last year – covers the repatriation of the remains of those who died, and the medical evacuation of the injured. The FCO will pay the costs concerned wherever an insurance policy does not already cover them. I decided on these exceptional measures because of the exceptional nature of terrorism, in which individuals are random victims of attacks directed at society as a whole. As for the future, we shall work urgently with the insurance industry and others to see how between us we can ensure that the pain of victims of terrorism is not made worse by financial hardship.

INTELLIGENCE AND TRAVEL ADVICE

Mr Speaker, immediately after the Bali attack, we advised against all travel to Bali and non-essential travel elsewhere in Indonesia. On 17 October I announced a further strengthening of our travel advice, warning against any travel to Indonesia. I also advised UK citizens in Indonesia to consider leaving if their presence was not essential, and authorised the withdrawal of some dependants and non-essential staff from our Embassy in Jakarta. On 18 October, we amended our travel advice to other countries in South East Asia, urging UK nationals to exercise extreme caution. Further attacks cannot be ruled out. In the light of additional intelligence assessed this morning, I am strengthening the travel advice still further by giving additional warnings about threats to UK nationals at specific locations in Indonesia. That travel advice is being issued now and is available on the Foreign Office website.

Mr Speaker, I am placing in the Library of the House the travel advice issued by the FCO and British Embassy in Jakarta in respect of Indonesia before 12 October, and the equivalent advice issued by the United States and Australian governments.

Many of the relevant judgements in travel advice of this kind are based upon intelligence. In the light of the atrocity on 12 October, the families and others have asked whether there was any intelligence which could have led us to issue specific warnings against travel to, or staying in, Bali. If I had lost a member of my family I would be asking such questions. Indeed as Foreign Secretary, it is my responsibility to do so.

Like everyone else, I dearly wish that there had been intelligence which could have prevented this atrocity and its appalling consequences. But the answer, sadly, is that there was none. As my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister told the House last Tuesday 'we had no specific intelligence relating to the attack in Bali'. (15.10.02 col 177)

Mr Speaker, as is now well known, it is the case that there was received in late September a generic threat to a number of cities and provinces in Indonesia, including Bali but covering 55% of the land mass of Indonesia and 100 million of its population. But, as my Australian counterpart Alexander Downer told the Australian Parliament on 17 October, these threats 'were non-specific and broad based across Indonesia'.

Mr Speaker, there has also been a question raised about the Travel Advisory issued by the US Department of State on 10 October. Let me explain to the House what this was. This Advisory was a 'world-wide caution' of a kind first issued by the US after the 11 September last year. It alerted US citizens to the need to remain vigilant in the face of terrorist threats. It was revised on 10 October following an audio tape broadcast attributed to Usama Bin Laden. Issued only two days before the attack in Bali, it contained no reference to Bali, Indonesia or even South East Asia. We also received a classified warning from the US on the same day. It too had no reference to Bali, Indonesia or South East Asia. Since our Travel Advice to Indonesia, last updated on 27 August 2002, already contained a clear warning to travellers to Indonesia about terrorist threats, we judged that there was no case for amending it further.

Mr Speaker, the US, Australia and the UK all received similar intelligence in respect of Indonesia, but making their own independent judgements about this, all came to similar conclusions about travel to Indonesia. None of us had concluded that it was unsafe to travel to or remain in Bali.

Mr Speaker, both as Home Secretary and now as Foreign Secretary I have worked closely with all three of our intelligence agencies. Their standard of professionalism and competence is second to none. They pick up literally thousands of pieces of intelligence. These vary from material provided by human sources, that provided by secret technical means and material that is openly available to the public, and sometimes just gossip.

Terrorist groups operate in secret. They are also often skilled in counter-intelligence techniques, and may be feeding false intelligence to compromise a source or direct law enforcement resources to the wrong place. So the raw intelligence has to be skilfully and carefully assessed before judgements can be made upon it. I believe, on the basis of what I have seen, that the correct judgements were made about the available streams of intelligence before October 12. There were generic threats. There was no information which could have enabled us to warn in advance of this atrocity.

But, Mr Speaker, I do not want the relatives of those who died in this atrocity, nor those injured, to have nagging anxieties about whether different judgements should have been made. The Intelligence and Security Committee was established by Act of Parliament to scrutinise the work of the intelligence agencies. Through the Prime Minister, it reports regularly to Parliament. It is made up of senior members of both Houses of Parliament. It happens that the ISC is at present in Canberra on a long-planned trip. This morning I spoke to the Chairman of the ISC – my RHF Dewsbury – who had just arrived there. I told her that I had asked the Intelligence Coordinator in the Cabinet Office to ensure that all intelligence was made available to the Committee. The ISC will of course consider this and then reach their own conclusions upon it.

ON-GOING CAMPAIGN AGAINST TERRORISM

The atrocity in Kuta was a brutal reminder that the campaign against terrorism did not end with the removal of the Taliban. The reality is that our campaign will take years, perhaps even decades.

In Indonesia, our immediate aim is to help the Indonesian government act quickly to deal with the terrorist threat. We are already discussing how we can help through an intensified programme of counter-terrorism assistance.

My Noble Friend Baroness Amos and the British Ambassador met President Megawati this morning in Jakarta. My Noble Friend was assured by President Megawati that the Indonesian government was determined to take swift and decisive action against those responsible. President Megawati has already signed an emergency decree strengthening police powers to detain suspects and to enable the courts to make use of intelligence.

The Indonesian authorities have also taken action against known extremist groups. On 19 October they arrested the founder of Jemaah Islamiyah, Abubakar Bashir.

The terrorists' aim is to defeat the universal values of the United Nations of tolerance, freedom and respect for human life and replace them with brutality, fear and ethnic and religious hatred.

But I believe that the Australian Prime Minister Howard captures the international mood when he called on the world to pursue the campaign against terrorism with 'unrelenting vigour'. Today the grief is enormous. But our determination is unwavering.


ENDS

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