human rights news & views

Australia’s position on Hicks ‘disingenuous & grossly inaccurate’

Former chief justice Alastair Nicholson has written a scathing rebuttal of Australian Attorney-General Philip Ruddock’s defence of his government’s abandonment of David Hicks, the Australian citizen still imprisoned by the US at Guantánamo Bay after more than five years. Nicholson’s point, made clearly and authoritatively, is that Hicks cannot get a fair trial by US […]

Prisoner abuse in island Kingdom

Rioting erupted on the streets of Tonga on 16 November. Police and soldiers were given emergency powers while Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand sent in troops. Shortly thereafter reports emerged of maltreatment of prisoners in custody. Some of those said to have been abused were peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators with no involvement in the unrest. Tongan soldiers […]

Political prisoners executed for their organs

It couldn’t last. Two good-news posts in a row (25 July), but now I’m afraid my subject matter turns to human rights hell. Since the de facto privatisation of the health system in China in the early 1980s, most Chinese can’t afford decent medical care. Meanwhile, human organs are sold to rich Chinese and foreigners […]

Annan encourages rule of law at Guantánamo

Outgoing UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has previously condemned the US-led war on Iraq as illegal. He has also called for the detention camps at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba to be closed. Yesterday, he praised the Bush Administration‘s decision to respect Guantánamo detainees’ inalienable legal rights to the protection afforded by common article 3 of the […]

Hicks ‘obviously innocent’ but with poor prospects

Michael Gawenda, former editor-in-chief of Melbourne's only broadsheet, The Age, and now its US correspondent, does not mince his words.  He describes David Hicks, that 30 year-old British-Australian on whose behalf I and many others have argued vigorously for a fair trial or else release from Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay, as "obviously innocent." It […]

US allies fail David Hicks

Even Afghanistan insisted its citizens be released from Guantánamo.  Why is David Hicks, with dual British and Australian citizenship, still there after nearly five years?  Why is anyone still there after the decision of the US Supreme Court that the proposed military tribunals are unlawful?  Why is Australia still supporting the continued detention and attempts […]

Close Guantánamo

The Cuban hit song Guantánamera celebrates the women of the seaside town of Guantánamo.  The lyrics speak of seeking refuge in the mountains in preference to the seashore.  There are about 460 involuntary Guantánamero (men) who might echo that sentiment. That such a place as the US detainment camps at Guantánamo exists at all, when […]

The inalienable right to vote

A fine tradition of Australian parliamentary democracy — in addition to compulsory voting, long may it last — is the respect given to all prisoners' right to vote.  Perhaps it is a consequence of (white) Australia's penal history that we don't regard prisoners as less than human.  Whatever they may have done, adult prisoners should […]

Evidence-based public policy

Criminologist Don Weatherburn, Director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in Sydney, argues persuasively for an evidence-based approach to crime prevention.  Scientific research is not inerrant, but in the long run it is far superior to ideology, 'common sense' or subjective experience as a basis for sound public policy. Prison policy too should […]

Australia violates rights of indigenous boy

With the Australian media seized with a sudden interest in the complex social problems of some Aboriginal communities, politicians seeking solutions without consultation and the Prime Minister, John Howard, advocating a ‘law and order’ response, we see once again the impact of the law on indigenous youth: this time recognised at the highest international level […]