Senator Lidia Thorpe will on Wednesday introduce a Bill to strip Australia’s Attorney-General of their power to prevent the prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Australian courts.
The Bill amends the Criminal Code Act 1995, targeting the requirement for the Attorney-General’s consent for proceedings in relation to these crimes to commence.
This veto power currently gives the Attorney-General carte-blanche to block prosecution of these heinous crimes, and is a barrier to justice for victims and survivors.
As recently as 2018 the Attorney-General Christian Porter blocked the Australian Rohinga community from pursuing justice against Aung San Suu Kyi for crimes against humanity in relation to the Rohinga Genocide in Myanmar.
Before that in 2011, Attorney-General Robert McClelland blocked a war crimes case initiated by Australian Tamil man, Jegan Waran, who had witnessed Sri Lankan forces bomb hospitals and ambulances during the civil war there.
The Attorney-General’s veto-power also allows the government to avoid accountability in relation to Australia’s defence and foreign policy, and their unjust treatment of First Peoples in this country.
Just last week, Foreign Minister Penny Wong came under fire for cutting aid to UNRWA in Gaza, with the Chief of the agency describing the move as ‘collective punishment’.
Meanwhile, racial discrimination class actions are being pursued across the country against a number of state governments for unjust removal of children into State care, with lawyers calling to stop a ‘modern stolen generation’.
The 1997 Bringing Them Home report found that the policies that initiated the Stolen Generations in the 20th century were genocidal in intent. Today the mass forcible removal of First Nations children continues.
Senator Thorpe’s bill would strengthen government accountability around these policies.
QUOTES ATTRIBUTABLE TO SENATOR LIDIA THORPE
“No politician should get to say who can and can’t be held accountable in our legal system, particularly in relation to the most heinous crimes like genocide. ”
“This bill helps get political interference out of our legal system, and gives victims and survivors of these most heinous crimes a better chance at justice”
“This bill will empower people to seek truth and justice.”
“Whether you're a Palestinian Australian who has seen your family murdered in Gaza, or a Blak Mother wanting to hold this government to account for the ongoing removal of First Nations children, my bill will give people in this country a better chance for justice”.
“The government has a choice: they can support this bill and stand on the side of human rights, the rule of law, and everyday people, or vote against it to maintain their undue influence over our courts, and their ability to provide cover for war criminals”
“Australia has been avoiding its obligation to prevent and punish Genocide, and has failed to implement the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, despite being a signatory”.
“This is a powerful step that will hold individuals and governments accountable for acts of genocide and to help prevent future atrocities, as the 1948 Convention intended”.