Since 2008 when I appeared in the Melbourne terrorism trial, it’s been a case of plus ca change (the more things change, the more they stay the same). Our criminal law, driven by the Australian body politics’ desperate desire to line up with an hysterical Bush Administration response to 9/11, still criminalises thoughts and words and makes guilt by association a reality for Australians. In fact since 2008 ASIO has more powers and we still have so called experts in counter terrorism churning out papers on the threat within. Australian democracy remains suspended in the world of the anti-terror industry. February 2012
The new anti-terror laws are extreme, radical and violate basic fundamental human rights. My brother was found guilty of being a member of a terrorist organisation and despite getting a lesser sentence on appeal, served an extra 18 months unecessarily at the oppressive Barwon Jail. During the trial, Justice Bongiorno’s brave decision to halt the trial because of the unfair treatment of this group of men highlights just some of the injustices of these new laws. Amongst other things, my brother has since succesfuly gained his “A” Grade electrician’s licence and is making great progress in life in general. Although initially reluctant, on reflection I am honoured and proud of my small involvement in this powerful and accurate documentary. February 2012
Australia languishes behind almost every other Western Country in providing oversight in its terrorist prosecutions. The United States has a strong bill of rights and robust Supreme Court that simply would not permit the sort of prosecutions that have been launched in Australia. The UK, Canada and New Zealand all have Human Rights legislation protecting individuals against excesses of the State. It has taken almost ten years for Australia to finalise the role of an independent monitor into terrorism law and prosecutions.
The simple fact of the matter is that Australia stands alone in its pursuit of token prosecutions for the sake of having “trophy’s in the cabinet”. “The Trial” simply highlights many of the shortcomings in the counter terrorism legislation. A vast intelligence and policing empire has now been created in “protecting the Australian community”.
Hopefully, politically charged terrorism prosecutions has now subsided, at least to some degree. February 2012
Brian Walters SC
Australia’s terror laws (embodied in dozens of different statutes now) are amongst the most repressive passed by any regime in the world. They are not counterbalanced by any legal recognition of human rights. They give an almost laughably wide definition of terrorism – going way beyond what most people would think of in that context. For example, ‘indirect possession of a thing associated with terrorism’ (whatever that may mean) is now a serious crime. Real acts of terrorism, like bombing and hijacking, were already serious crimes. The laws are broad and vague, giving great scope to security agencies to interpret them in accordance with their own political prejudices. These laws give unprecedented power to police and security agencies to trample the rights of civilians by way of search, seizure and questioning. Those powers are largely unreviewable and inevitably they have been abused. We have seen particular ethnic communities, with a good record of contributing to Australian society – such as the Tamils and Kurds – regularly raided in what appears to be the selective and often racist agenda of the security agencies concerned. We have expended billions of dollars on anti-terrorism agencies, morphing them into large and dangerous bodies with power to overwhelm the ordinary citizen. Wnen I appeared in the Tamil terror trial we saw the AFP set out (unsuccessfully) to prove that the Tamil Tigers were a terrorist organisation. To do that they took sides in an overseas internal conflict – something that should be for our political leaders to determine, not the police. What is worse, the AFP took sides with the war criminals running the Sri Lankan regime. The conduct of the AFP resulted in fiasco, but it was made possible by our political leaders abrogating our democratic principles in a way real terrorists could not dream of achieving.
The way to uphold our democratic values in the face of terrorism is to uphold those values. In this our leaders have shown themselves wanting.
I have written about the Tamil terrorism trial here: http://brianwaltersmelbourne.blogspot.com.au/2010/03/serendipity-tamils-and-terror-australis.html
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