BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor    home | Feb news

"Amnesty International has concerns regarding the proposed “security legislation” to be introduced shortly into the Australian parliament. In the wake of the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, the Australian government indicated that it will pass “security legislation” based on the UK Terrorism Act 2000 and Anti-Crime and Security Act 2001. Among other things, the proposed legislation will give ASIO the power to arrest and detain people without legal representation, removes the right to silence and the privilege against self-incrimination, makes it an offence punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment to fail to answer questions, and creates a new offence of “terrorism”, under which terrorism is defined broadly. ... Immediate action is critical to block this Bill. Please send letters/faxes/email to your local Members of Parliament." Amnesty International
See also: Urgent Actions & Briefing Paper: WSLS/LV: New Terrorist Laws Threaten Democratic Rights

Contents:
Outline of Amnesty International concerns with proposed legislation
Recommended Actions
A standard letter to use in taking action




RAPID RESPONSE ACTION

amnesty international australia

PUBLIC
AI Index: RRA 05/02

Australia: Concerns Regarding Security Legislation
February 11, 2002
 

Amnesty   International  has  concerns  regarding  the  proposed  “security legislation” to be introduced shortly into the Australian parliament.

In the wake of the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, the Australian government indicated that it will pass “security legislation” based on the UK Terrorism Act 2000 and Anti-Crime and Security Act 2001.  Among other things, the proposed legislation will give ASIO the power to arrest and detain people without legal representation, removes the right to silence and the privilege against self-incrimination, makes it an offence punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment to fail to answer questions, and creates a new offence of “terrorism”, under which terrorism is defined broadly.

Amnesty International (AI) is concerned:

· about the lack of consultation and public debate concerning the proposed legislation, particularly as most of the provisions of this complex Bill may be permanent, and the temporary provisions will  result in the deprivation of a person’s liberty without charge or trial and without access to a lawyer.

· that some of the measures in the proposed legislation, if implemented, may contravene internationally recognised human rights standards— including the rights to liberty, fair trial and freedom of association— and facilitate the violation of individuals’ human rights.

· that under the proposed legislation, asylum-seekers, who have been labelled as ‘suspected international terrorists’, will be denied an individual assessment on the merits of their claim. AI believes no one should be forcibly removed without their individual need for protection assessed in a full and satisfactory procedure.


RECOMMENDED ACTIONS

· Immediately send letters/faxes/emails to key Ministers and Senators as listed below. Immediate action is critical to block this Bill.

· Please send letters/faxes/email to your local Members of Parliament. A standard letter for you to fax and email is appended.

Please raise the following concerns:

· That there has been a lack of consultation and public discussion of the proposed legislation.

· That some of the measures in the newly proposed legislation, if implemented, may contravene internationally recognised human rights standards—including the rights to liberty, fair trial and freedom of association—and facilitate the violation of individuals’ human rights.  It is the obligation of the government to ensure the protection of human rights of all people in their jurisdiction.

· That the system of detention proposed for the legislation will establish an informal criminal justice system without the safeguards of the formal system. Anyone deemed to be a threat to national security or a “suspected international terrorists” could be imprisoned indefinitely on the basis of information inadmissible as evidence in a trial, and on a significantly lower standard of proof.

· That anyone who is detained should be either promptly charged with recognisable criminal offences and tried within a reasonable period in proceedings that comply fully with international fair trial standards; or deported within a reasonable period to another country where there is no risk of being subjected to the imposition of the death penalty, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or other serious human rights abuses, and to an unfair trial.

Appeals to:
 

Prime Minister
The Hon John Howard, MP
Prime Minister
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Fax no. (02) 6273 4100
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
 

Leader of the National Party
The Hon John Anderson, MP
Deputy Prime Minister
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Fax no: (02) 6273 4126
Email: John.Anderson.MP@aph.gov.au
Salutation: Dear Deputy Prime Minister
 

Attorney-General
The Hon Daryl Williams, MP
Attorney-General
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Fax no: (02) 6273 4102
Email: Daryl.Williams.MP@aph.gov.au
Salutation: Dear Attorney-General
 

Leader of the Opposition
The Hon Simon Crean, MP
Leader of the Opposition
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Fax no: (02) 6277 2307
Email: S.Crean.MP@aph.gov.au
Salutation: Dear Mr Crean
 

Leader of the Democrats
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja
Leader of the Democrats
The Senate
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Fax no: (02) 6277 3235
Email: Senator.Stott.Despoja@democrats.org.au
Salutation: Dear Senator Despoja

Please  send  letters/faxes/emails  to  your  local  Member  of Parliament.  Details  for  your  local member and State senators are available online at http://www.aph.gov.au

Please send appeals immediately.

Contact the Section Office on 1300 303 374 is sending appeals after March 1st 2002.




A standard letter to use in taking action

[insert name]
[insert position]
Parliament HouseCanberra ACT 2600
 

Dear [insert name]

I am writing to you concerning the preparation of the Australian counter-terrorism legislation as outlined by the Attorney General Daryl Williams following the Cabinet decision of 2 October 2001.

In light of the shocking criminal acts which took place on 11 September 2001 in the United States of America, it is prudent that States should ensure that their citizens are protected from similar criminal acts.  However, care should be taken to ensure that measures taken to protect national security do not infringe fundamental human rights.

I am concerned that the definition of “terrorism” adopted in a number of countries is broad, excessively vague and capable of criminalising activities unrelated to political violence. Such legislation may infringe the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and internationally recognised standards regarding clarity and certainty in criminal law.

The Attorney General indicated in his 18 December 2001 press release that the definition of “terrorist activity” in Australia’s anti- terrorism legislation would include “an act committed for a political, religious of ideological purpose, designed to intimidate the public with regard to its security and intended to cause serious damage to persons, property or infrastructure.” Amnesty International is concerned that this definition is too broad and lacking in clarity. I urge that the government demonstrate that existing criminal laws are inadequate to prosecute people who commit such crimes before proceeding with the new counter-terrorism legislation.

I also note the Attorney General’s statement on 2 October 2001 that the Australian legislation would be largely modelled on the UK Terrorism Act 2000. Amnesty International has been gravely concerned about this legislation and its predecessors for many years and has documented numerous serious human rights abuses facilitated by this legislation, including torture, cruel inhumane or degrading treatment and unfair trials.

I urge the Federal Government to ensure that any bill relating to the proposed counter-terrorism measures be given sufficient time to allow for proper parliamentary and public scrutiny.

People who commit heinous crimes and grave human rights abuses must be brought to justice. However, as the UN Commission on Human Rights has affirmed, “all measures to counter terrorism must be in strict conformity with international law, including international human rights standards.” I seek your confirmation that you agree with this statement and will take steps to ensure that the human rights of all people in Australia are protected.

Yours Sincerely
 


If anyone is seeking more information about security legislation then the Rights at Risk document is a very good public reference, and I can send this onto anyone electronically if needed.

Kathy Richards, Coordinator, Amnesty International Australia Campaign Services
Ph: + 61 2 9217 7642 Fax: + 61 2 9217 7677
Amnesty International Australia Locked Bag 23 Broadway NSW 2007
email: krichards@amnesty.org.au


Amnesty International  Updated Aug 13
AI is a worldwide campaigning movement that works to promote all the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international standards. AI campaigns to free all prisoners of conscience; ensure fair and prompt trials for political prisoners; abolish the death penalty, torture and other cruel treatment of prisoners; end political killings and "disappearances"; and oppose human rights abuses by opposition groups. AI has around a million members and supporters in 162 countries. Activities include public demonstrations, letter-writing, human rights education, concerts, individual appeals and global campaigns on a particular issue.
Email: hello@amnesty.org.au  Homepages: http://www.amnesty.org.au/ | http://www.amnesty.org  Indonesia Web-page: http://web.amnesty.org/web/ar2001.nsf/webasacountries/INDONESIA?OpenDocument  ETimor Web-page: http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/ASA570012001


See also:

Until Feb 22 WSLS/LV: New Terrorist Laws Threaten Democratic Rights
Urgent Actions & Briefing Paper updated Feb 1, 2002
"New Laws: * ASIO to get powers of arrest and detention for up to 48 hours * The removal of the right to silence when under questioning * The creation of terrorist offences and related legislation violating the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association * Removal of privacy rights and increased powers for government to seize organisation's assets * Denial of the right to legal representation ... In Australia ... Federal Cabinet has announced some extraordinary proposals and over the coming months proposed legislation will be made public. The legislation is likely to be considered in February so it is important for civil society to act now and influence the debate over what are acceptable changes, if any, to our democratic and civil rights. ... In Australia, support for the East Timorese's independence movement could have been banned." Damien Lawson, Western Suburbs Legal Service, Melbourne & Anne O'Rourke, Liberty Victoria (Australia)


BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor    home | Feb news
Website: http://www.pcug.org.au/~wildwood  Email: wildwood@pcug.org.au
Postal address: BACK DOOR GPO Box 59 Canberra City ACT 2601 Australia
Receive FREE weekly email Web-updates: email wildwood@pcug.org.au and include the words "Subscribe BACK DOOR" in the message header. more info