Eminent jurists panel hears evidence on Australia’s counter-terrorism laws, practices and policies
The Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Human Rights began its national hearing on terrorism and human rights in Australia today.
The public hearing in Sydney, hosted by the Australian Section of the ICJ, is part of an independent inquiry by eight eminent jurists appointed by the ICJ to examine the global impact of the fight against terrorism on human rights and the rule of law.
Australia is a key player in the global fight against terrorism. In response to the terrorist threat Australia has enacted counter-terrorism legislation that includes preventive detention, control orders and powers for the intelligence services to issue arrest and questioning warrants. Some of these new laws, policies and practices have raised widespread concerns about their impact on the enjoyment of human rights.
“We want to learn directly from key actors here in Australia about these measures and their impact on human rights,” said Ms Hina Jilani, one of the world’s leading human rights advocates and a member of the Eminent Jurists Panel visiting Australia. For the next two days the eminent jurists will listen to submissions from civil society, lawyers, academics and governmental officials. The eminent jurists will also meet with governmental officials in the course of their visit.
“No one can doubt that States have a duty to protect people from terrorist acts. It is important to understand the justifications for new laws and policies to counter terrorism. At the same time any measure to counter terrorism must be proportionate to the exigencies of the situation and respect in law and practice the rights of people under international human rights and humanitarian law,” said Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, member of the Eminent Jurists Panel.
The Panel is a high-level body of eminent jurists that exercises its mandate independently, with the logistical support of the ICJ Secretariat and its network of organizations. Arthur Chaskalson, former President of the Constitutional Court and Chief Justice of South Africa, chairs the Panel. The other members are Georges Abi-Saab (Egypt), Robert K. Goldman (United States), Hina Jilani (Pakistan), Vitit Muntarbhorn (Thailand), Mary Robinson (Ireland), Stefan Trechsel (Switzerland) and Raúl Zaffaroni (Argentina).
The eminent jurists will hold hearings around the world over a period of 18 months. The hearing in Australia is the third hearing, following hearings in Colombia and in East Africa. The next hearings will take place in Belfast and London in April 2006. The Panel will issue its global report based on the hearings and other information received in April 2007.
In Australia the Panel will be represented by:
Ms Hina Jilani, a leading human rights advocate from Pakistan and currently Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, and Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, a renowned Professor of law at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and currently Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.