Troughboy's World

Troughboy has a mind of his own. He's open to new experiences but is sometimes a bit conservative. He believes in honesty, loyalty and justice.

Location: Cidade Maravilhosa, Not Rio de Janeiro

Well, well endowed

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Terra Australis: The Culprits - Part III

Free, but...

According to the SMH today (29 August 2006)

"FOR the first time on Australian soil, the authorities have taken extraordinary measures to curb the freedoms of a citizen on suspicion of terrorist intent. It is an unfortunate threshold for the nation to cross. A citizen, not charged with any crime, has had his freedom of movement, his freedom of speech and his freedom of association restricted. This option of control orders was created by the anti-terrorism laws the Howard Government introduced, with the support of the Opposition, last year in response to the July bombings in London. But even more unfortunately, this is probably a necessary step.

The suspect, Joseph Thomas, has, by his admission, trained with al-Qaeda, an organisation dedicated to the mass murder of civilians in our country, among others, in the pursuit of its political ends. And although Mr Thomas has been convicted of terrorist-related offences by the Victorian Supreme Court, the convictions were quashed on a legal technicality.

The critical evidence against him, his statement to the police, was improperly obtained from him by the Australian Federal Police. Mr Thomas did not have access to a lawyer, and the court was obliged to quash his conviction. The Crown is considering bringing a fresh case against Mr Thomas based on new evidence: he has repeated in a Four Corners TV interview some of the same admissions he made under police interrogation.

In a normal criminal matter, that may be the end of the story. But terrorism is not a normal criminal matter. Who will offer to protect the public in the months or years until the prosecution can bring a new case? Can the fact of Mr Thomas's terrorist training and sympathies be tolerated because of a police bungle? To allow a trained terrorist to go free because of a technicality would be wrong. A government that did not act to contain a known risk of mass murder would be irresponsible.

Is there an alternative to a control order? Yes. There is a case that it would have been smarter to put Mr Thomas under covert surveillance. Covert surveillance, which can be done without the subject's knowledge, would seem to be a better option against an active terrorist because it would allow the authorities to quietly trace his contacts and flush them out. A control order, by contrast, is a megaphone announcement that he is under suspicion, and, no doubt, under surveillance as well.

The Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, yesterday suggested that the control order was preferable because covert surveillance required more resources. Yet it is precisely for such purposes that the Federal Government increased ASIO's annual budget from $69 million five years ago to this year's $340 million. So there may be an element of the demonstration effect in the decision to use a control order. Still, we do not need to take Mr Ruddock's word that the order is necessary. One of the checks built into the new law provides that a Federal Court must approve the control order. It is an important check on an unfortunate but necessary new power."

How does Amnesty International view this?

AMNESTY International - which counts the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, among its members - has attacked the imposition of a control order on Jack Thomas as ushering in a "regrettable" period in Australia's record on human rights.

"Control orders potentially violate a range of human rights," said Amnesty International's campaign co-ordinator, Katie Wood.

These include the rights to liberty and security, freedom from arbitrary detention, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and association and the right to be presumed innocent.

Moreover, the orders could breach Australia's international obligations, Ms Wood said.


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