About time too; is the message getting thru to true human rights lawyers? GENOCIDE
Every Australian prime minister from John Howard onwards should be investigated for crimes against humanity in relation to the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, according to a group of international lawyers.
The group of seven British, American and Australian lawyers, which includes high-profile barrister and refugee advocate Julian Burnside, has petitioned the International Criminal Court to investigate the treatment of asylum seekers by successive governments, beginning with John Howard’s.
PM spruiks his refugee plan
Malcolm Turnbull has done the media rounds this morning talking up the new US resettlement deal with the same old rhetoric.
A 52-page communique names Mr Howard, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, claiming they have knowingly breached the Rome Statute of the court.
“Those breaches involve the indefinite detention of asylum seekers who have committed no offence and regardless of their age or health or sex,” the communique states. “The breaches also include forcible removal of asylum seekers to Pacific Island countries where they are detained and seriously mistreated, for the stated purpose of ‘stopping the boats’: that is, deterring people from seeking asylum in Australia.”
It also names immigration ministers going back to the Howard era, including current minister Peter Dutton, his predecessor, Scott Morrison, Labor’s Tony Burke, Brendan O’Connor, Chris Bowen and Chris Evans.
Howard ministers Philip Ruddock, Amanda Vanstone and Kevin Andrews are also named.
The ICC, which sits in The Hague in the Netherlands, generally puts on trial political leaders accused of genocide and other atrocities in countries predominantly in Africa.
But it has a very low strike rate of convictions, with four accused national leaders dying before even getting to trial.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (right) has suffered constant, often vicious attacks.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (right) has suffered constant, often vicious attacks. Photo: Andrew Meares
The weekend announcement of a resettlement deal is likely to reduce the chances of the court taking up the matter.
Mr Turnbull’s office declined to comment. Mr Abbott has been sought for comment.
John Howard. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
In a statement released in London on Monday, the group said there was “no option remaining other than the International Criminal Court” after Australia ignored critical reports by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International.
The communique cites precedents in international law – including the United States’ intervention in Nicaragua in the 1980s – which show that prime ministers and ministers could be held personally responsible as perpetrators of crimes.
Kevin Rudd. Photo: AP
Courtenay Barklem, a former human rights adviser at the Law Society of England and Wales and one of the signatories, said Australia’s reputation had been diminished through the mandatory detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.
“This scandal sullies Australia’s record on human rights,” he said. “We expect Australia to have higher standards and not to mistreat some of the most vulnerable people through deliberate government policies. This diminishes Australia’s reputation in the eyes of the international community.”
Julia Gillard. Photo: Andrew Meares
Mr Burnside told Fairfax Media that he was involved because what Australia was doing to asylum seekers was “increasingly outrageous” and out of step with what were once “core Australian values”.
“The Coalition’s proposed lifetime visa ban, which it is trying to embarrass Labor into supporting, would have been unthinkable in Australia 20 or 25 years ago,” he said.
Tony Abbott. Photo: Andrew Meares
“Australians have been brainwashed into thinking offshore detention is being done to protect them from criminals.”
The communique is supported by witness evidence from doctors, workers, visitors and former detainees of offshore processing centres.
In 2014, Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie and lawyer Greg Barns went to the ICC with a similar complaint against the Abbott government, without success.