On Wednesday 23 May 2012 at noon, Digital Journal attended an ‘embargoed press briefing’, held at Amnesty International’s Sydney Action Centre, in Chippendale, for the launch of Amnesty International’s 50th annual review, ‘Amnesty International Report 2012: The State of the World’s Human Rights
Around the world
Some of the key topics mentioned included the problems faced around regime change in the Middle East and North Africa and the global arms trade.
It was highlighted that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Russia, China, USA, UK and France) also supply 74% of the world’s arms; including to countries where there is evidence of brutal repression and abuse of human rights, such as Syria and Bahrain.
The main issues mentioned relating specifically to Australia were those associated with Aboriginal Australians, particularly in the Northern Territory and the policies surrounding refugees and asylum seekers coming to Australia.
Aboriginal Australians make up only about 2.5% of the population, but represent 26% of the adult prison population. Aboriginals are fourteen times more likely to be in jail than non-Aboriginals.
Amnesty International does not believe that Australia should outsource its systems to deal with asylum seekers to other countries and is calling for a maximum thirty-day detention of asylum seekers, which they consider to be sufficient time for the initial processing.
Claire Mallinson summed up the report, which is over four hundred pages long:
“We have seen progress in the region in countries like Burma. We’ve seen progress in Australia...”
She goes on to say, “Amnesty International itself is bigger than ever before. We now have more supporters around the world than ever before. We are growing in places like Brazil and India and South Africa, which is fantastic. So it is in some ways a depressing read, but there’s lost to be optimistic about. So I shall leave you on an optimistic note.”
Abuse of the Human Rights Act in the UK
After the press briefing, Digital Journal asked Claire Mallinson what her views were around recent cases such as that of Abu Qatada, who has been described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”, using the Human Rights Act to remain in the UK, thus avoiding deportation to Jordan and also paedophiles that are allowed access to the Internet. Should some people not be entitled to certain rights?
“Everybody is entitled to their human rights, but rights also come with responsibilities; and obviously in relation to things like paedophilia, that are a serious criminal offense, then they should be held accountable for that.
“So everybody is entitled to their rights, but that doesn’t just come with a blank cheque. They have significant responsibilities.
“Everybody should be held accountable and held to justice. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the Queen of England or a plumber, in England, you know, I think we should all be held accountable.”
Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 gives a ‘Right to respect for private and family life’. Should a known terrorist be allowed to remain in the country so he can have a ‘right to a family life’ or should he be deported?
“I don’t know the specifics about that case. I would imagine what the issue is; where they are being deported to and whether they will get a fair trial.
“Obviously I’m sure Amnesty International’s position; we would be very concerned if somebody would be sent to a country where there isn’t an independent judiciary; where the death penalty is in place.
“But, you know, saying that, that might be a case where actually we would be suggesting that the International Criminal Court is the right place for that to go to, but without knowing the specifics of the individual case.”
The cost to the British taxpayer of Abu Qatada’s human rights
An article in The Sun
has just reported that Abu Qatada’s lawyers have been paid £21million in legal aid in ten years.
That comes on top of the more than £500,000 in benefits that The Telegraph
reports his family have already cost the British taxpayer.