Statement to Australian Story on James Ricketson case

Media Release

17 December 2018

The Australian Government made extensive representations to Cambodia about Mr Ricketson’s case and his welfare, including at the highest levels. It also supported Mr Ricketson’s application for a pardon and the Foreign Minister welcomed the news that his petition was approved by Cambodia.

Consular officials in Canberra and Phnom Penh provided Mr Ricketson, and his family, with a high level of consular services while he was detained.  This included:

  • extensive representations to the Cambodian authorities
  • twenty-six prison visits to check on Mr Ricketson's health and welfare
    • Australian prisoners in Cambodia, in similar circumstances, receive quarterly consular visits unless special welfare concerns exist
  • assisting with arrangements regarding medical treatment for Mr Ricketson
  • frequent contact with his next of kin, including providing updates on his case
  • liaising with Mr Ricketson’s various legal representatives
  • attending 10 court proceedings
  • formally supporting his pardon application
  • two visits to the Phnom Penh Immigration Detention Centre on 21‑22 September 2018, prior to his release
  • advising Mr Ricketson’s next-of-kin in Cambodia on media interaction and support in dealing with the media, and
  • on request, advising on possible Cambodian Government reactions to the family’s media engagement.

The nature and extent of consular assistance that can be provided to Australians overseas is set out in the Consular Services Charter. As outlined in the Charter, there are limits to what the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) can do. When overseas, Australians are subject to local laws and legal processes, which can be very different from those in Australia.  The Australian Government cannot intervene in, or influence the legal proceedings of another country, or have an Australian released from detention overseas, just as we would not countenance another country intervening in our legal processes in Australia.  The legal aspects of Mr Ricketson’s case were a matter for Mr Ricketson’s legal representatives.

This also applies to prison conditions. The Australian Government cannot get Australians better treatment in prison than local prisoners, even where local conditions appear harsh or dire by Australian standards.  We can, however, raise health and welfare concerns with local authorities, as we did on multiple occasions for Mr Ricketson.

The provision of consular assistance is not impacted by the alleged culpability or otherwise of an Australian, and consular staff do not make judgements on the innocence of Australians detained overseas.  DFAT provided Mr Ricketson with full and appropriate consular support while he was detained, as we would for any Australian in similar circumstances. 

It is important that Australians understand clearly the limits to what the Australian Government can do overseas. DFAT, through its Smartraveller website, makes it clear to all Australian travellers before they leave Australia that when they visit another country they are bound by the laws and the legal processes in those countries.

The Australian Government regularly makes representations to the Cambodian Government on human rights and the political situation in Cambodia, and Foreign Minister Payne has expressed our strong concerns with the 2018 national election process directly with Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn.

It is the Australian Government’s longstanding practice that it neither confirms nor denies the employment of individuals in intelligence-related positions.

Last Updated: 17 December 2018