Has an active role in Human Rights and is a pro-bono adviser to the Foreign Prisoner Support Service. Stephen has represented a number of Australians detained overseas, including David Hicks and Robert Langdon. Read more
Award Winning ADVOCATE ARTICLES
Senior FPSS Advocate - Finalist 25th Human Rights Awards (Australia)
Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants.
'Very evil person' botched 60 Minutes child-snatch, says other alleged kidnapper from Lebanese Jail. Story by Latika Bourke
Welcome Home Adam Whittington
Photo: Ella Pelligrini
The moment Adam Whittington was reunited with his children after a botched 60 Minutes story
When a person travels overseas they leave behind their Country's legal support systems, emergency service capabilities and medical facilities. Whilst your Government is obliged to provide prisoner support, there may be limitations.
Our aim is to offer information through this website to support awareness of human rights and social justice.
Why Human Rights Matter
Human rights reflect the minimum standards necessary for people to live with dignity. Human rights give people the freedom to choose how they live, how they express themselves, and what kind of government they want to support, among many other things. Human rights also guarantee people the means necessary to satisfy their basic needs, such as food, housing, and education, so they can take full advantage of all opportunities. Finally, by guaranteeing life, liberty, equality, and security, human rights protect people against abuse by those who are more powerful.
Adelaide man Scott Richards arrested in Dubai for sharing Facebook post
Warning: Travellers need to be even more vigilant when travelling/working overseas and remember that when you do, you are subject to the laws of that country. They may seem unreasonable and even stupid but every country has the right to enforce the laws that govern its society. Before you travel, do a little homework so you don't become a statistic.... If you are travelling for work then ask your employer to provide you with a legal brief to ensure you remain within the confines of both the law and culture. Unfortunately not all travel advisories alert citizens to all the dangers that might befall them when overseas so it pays to do your own research.. thoughts and prayers with Scott Richards and his family in Adelaide. His plight highlights perhaps a lessor known danger when using social media in foreign countries.
Freeing Peter tells the extraordinary true story of how an ordinary Australian family took on the Egyptian government to get Peter Greste out of prison.
What would you do if a loved one were to suddenly find themselves in the most impossible of situations? That's the question addressed in Freeing Peter, jointly written by the family of Peter Greste following his arrest in Egypt in 2013 for allegedly threatening national security. The charges, arising from his work as a journalist, were unsubstantiated, but after a sham trial Peter was given a seven-year sentence. Having been jailed at the outset, he spent a total of four hundred days in prison.
Immediately following his arrest, his family went to work on the campaign to free him, with an intensity that meant his plight was seldom out of the headlines. But the process was by no means plain sailing, nor was there always agreement. The Grestes' ability to put aside their personal differences, to be galvanised rather than paralysed by the crisis, played a huge part in their success. Here they write frankly about the daily uncertainty, the strains of decision-making, the emotional visits to Peter in prison, the lack of transparency in the Egyptian legal system, the struggles with language and culture. For his part, Peter superbly depicts the effects of incarceration on his state of mind, and his battle to stop himself constructing a mental prison within the physical one.
Freeing Peter is an inspirational story about fortitude, resilience,
and a highly functional family whose unity proved to be the saving of them.
Juris and Lois Greste are the Latvian-born parents of Peter Greste, who as an Al Jazeera journalist was imprisoned in Egypt in 2013. Andrew, a farmer, is Peter's older brother, and Michael, a police officer, is his younger brother. They live in Queensland.
By Kay Danes, OAM
This paper explores the proposition that capital punishment is a cruel and unusual punishment against a legal, moral, socio-cultural and human rights framework. There are no best standards for inflicting capital punishment, regardless of whether in either Western or non-Western society. The foundation of human rights is the inherent dignity and value of all human life.
A week after the truck attack in Nice it remains unclear whether the perpetrator, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, had any links to Islamic State or whether he was a volatile and violent petty criminal gone mad. Comments by the prosecutor heading the official investigation into the incident suggest the latter. Yet, in the hours after the attack, French President François Hollande was quick in pledging to expand France’s counter-terrorism efforts at home and abroad. Declaring that “nothing will make us yield in our will to fight terrorism”, he vowed to “further strengthen our actions in Iraq and in Syria”. In Nice, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve added that France was “at war with terrorists” who wanted to “strike us at every cost and who are extremely violent”. These pronouncements followed familiar rhetoric already employed in the aftermath of the two major terrorist attacks in Paris last year when Hollande undertook to “lead a war” that was going to be “pitiless”. Other Western leaders have not shied away from using equally dramatic language in response to recent attacks and hostage situations, whether connected to IS or not.
Speaking in the aftermath of the Brussels bombings this March, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel proclaimed “unity against those who have chosen to support a barbaric enemy of freedom, democracy and fundamental values”. For German President Joachim Gauck the vehicular assault in Nice amounted to an “attack on the entire free world”. The statements of political leaders are regularly accompanied by hysterical media reporting. On television we see a variant of “terror”, “horror” or “massacre” flashing across the news ticker of all major stations. In the print media we are informed that we had just witnessed whatever country’s “9/11 moment”. Even where links to IS or organised terrorism are tenuous – as in the case of the Lindt Café siege in Sydney – we are told that the attack stood for the “instant we (had) changed forever”.
What dramatised, martial rhetoric by politicians and sensationalist media reporting have in common is that they play into the hands of IS and its narrative of conflict. What is more, they cause unnecessary alarm and fear among the public and deflect from the fact that we are facing complex challenges that require a well-thought-out and multi-dimensional response. Military force may well be part of that response. But intensifying airstrikes in Syria and Iraq as a reaction to the Nice attack is as counter-productive as it is illogical. If Western governments were serious about attempting to break the seemingly escalating circle of violence, careful consideration would have to be given to the various causes and dynamics of conflict. One key aspect of that dynamic concerns controlling the tools of violence. Arms sales to countries in the Middle East and Africa have long been documented as a major factor for political instability in these regions. Granted, reducing arms exports does not prevent a vehicular assault like the one in Nice last week. But in the medium term it is likely to assist in de-escalating many conflicts which, rightly or not, feature prominently in Islamist propaganda and play an important role in jihadi recruitment.
Photo: Weapons fair, London
Unfortunately, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction. According to the latest figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the volume of international transfers of major weapons in 2011-15 was 14% higher than in 2006-10. The five biggest exporters in 2011-15 were the USA, Russia, China, France and Germany. Seven of the 10 largest exporters of major weapons were Western democracies (US, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Spain, Netherlands).
France, for instance, exported arms to 78 countries in 2011-15. A total of 27% of arms exports went to countries in the Middle East, 18% to Africa and 15% to Europe. French efforts to increase arms exports also led to several major contracts in 2015, including the first two firm contracts for Rafale combat aircraft, 24 each for Egypt and Qatar. The picture in Germany is similar. Earlier in July, the Merkel government reported that German weapons exports in 2015 reached their highest level on record and have continued to grow since, despite a pledge to curb such exports to restive regions. Last year Berlin granted licences for exports of €7.86 billion ($11.5 billion) of weapons, nearly double the €3.96 billion ($5.77 billion) granted in 2014. Most of the large German weapons deals were concluded with allies in Europe and NATO. But they also included significant sales to countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. More directly related to the international campaign against IS, it has been reported that battle rifles supplied by the German government to Kurdish Peshmerga fighting IS actually ended up on arms markets in Northern Iraq. Curbing the global arms trade, particularly to regions of conflict, calls for long-term solutions which exceed the election cycles of Western democracies.
It is a challenge that requires taking on big business and powerful interest groups. If done seriously, a drastic reduction in arms exports would also have adverse economic effects in the exporting countries and ultimately cost jobs. It is thus doubtful that governments in Europe and elsewhere have the courage and political will to go down that path. In the meantime, we need to realise that terrorism has been a permanent fixture in human history. Attacks of determined individuals will remain unavoidable. We can, however, control the way we respond to such attacks in the short-term. It is in this regard that political leaders and journalists need to practise moderation and self-restraint as a matter of urgency.
The chances of dying in a terrorist attack continue to be much lower than those of drowning in a bathtub. This is the message that our governments and media outlets ought to convey in times of crisis. It is a message that may not serve their political interests. And it arguably doesn’t sell more newspapers either.
Dr Christopher Michaelsen is an associate professor in the Faculty of Law, University of NSW, and a member of Civil Liberties Australia. This article appeared first in Fairfax Media online on 21 July 2016.
A response to the anonymous public servant (APS) who penned “An alternative response to asylum seeker and refugee issues”.
As APS has noted, we in Australia have reached a seeming impasse on dealing with asylum seekers. APS has outlined what s/he calls “political realities” of hardline positions on stopping the boats versus the humanitarian concern of those opposing their position. While I appreciate APS’s thoughtfulness in trying to find practical solutions, there are other issues that must also be considered. I write as a social worker for 23 years with UNHCR who served in a number of difficult emergency and protracted refugee situations in Asia, Africa and Europe.
Australia is a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which it acceded under a Menzies government. Whilst there is significant debate around the relevance of a convention designed primarily to deal with the aftermath of World War Two and displaced persons in Europe, it is nonetheless THE universal agreement to which a number of countries, including Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia have yet to accede.
Under the convention a person has the right to seek asylum in another country if they fear persecution in their country of origin. If an asylum seeker is deemed to be a refugee, then the host country should make every effort to “assimilate and naturalise” him/her. Those found not to be refugees would be returned to their country of origin.
Currently Australia has a much larger legacy of its many and rapidly varied boat deterrence policies than just the 2000 (approximately) people on Manus and Nauru. There are also some 28,000 so-called “illegal maritime arrivals” in Australia on bridging visas (E) awaiting refugee status determination. Before 2011, these IMAs, if found to be refugees, could obtain a permanent protection visa and a pathway to eventual citizenship. The earliest of the IMAs on bridging visas reached Australia in 2011, yes five years ago. The last came just before the announcement that in January 2014 Australia would no longer accept IMAs and that they would be relocated to a regional processing centre. The Minister has estimated that it may take a decade to process those people in Australia. Even when they are processed they will be eligible for a three-year temporary protection visa (TPV), which will then be reviewed for possible renewal. The TPV does not entitle the holder to any permanent visa, nor to basic rights such as family reunion.
Australia is the only country in the world to offer a temporary protection in these circumstances. We cannot trade the rights of these 30,000 people inscribed in international agreements (and our obligations under the convention) for the possible loss of rights for “indigenous communities, women, LGBTI, wealth distribution and social welfare in general”. Remember, although the numbers fluctuate a little, usually only a small proportion of asylum applicants in Australia arrive by boat. Most arrive by air with a valid visa and then go on to pursue asylum claims. While the number of boat arrivals rose substantially before the current “lull”, even in high arrival years they still comprised just over half of onshore asylum seekers in Australia. Boat arrivals are in fact more likely to be recognised as refugees than those who have arrived by air. For example, the final protection visa grant rate for asylum seekers from the top country of citizenship for boat arrivals (Afghanistan) has varied between about 96% and 100% since 2009; while the final protection visa grant rate for those applying for asylum from one of the top countries of citizenship for air arrivals (China) is usually only around 20 to 30%. Australian border officials have worked quietly and closely with counterpart authorities in the region and civil aviation authorities so that air arrival numbers are dropping. For example, Indonesia now forbids entry without a visa for citizens of Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, three of the largest refugee producing countries.