Thursday, July 27, 2006

Major Michael Mori writes to GetUp members

Dear friends,

Standing up for the basic right to a fair trial is what GetUp's campaign to repatriate Australian David Hicks is all about. The tide is turning and tens of thousands of us are making waves: nearly 40,000 people have signed the letter of demand so far.

With this support, we've been busy ramping up the pressure on the Australian Government, and we wanted to share how the actions of so many GetUp members are being noticed around the world.

On Thursday, GetUp published full-page advertisements in major national and metropolitan newspapers calling on the Government to take action. We then assembled a press conference with a diverse alliance of community leaders to voice why they believe David Hicks should be brought home. These events received widespread local, national and international media coverage.

At the press conference, Catholic Bishop Kevin Manning said: "When Australia fails to act to guarantee the human rights of one of its citizens, then we are all diminished."

But the politicians still don't get it. In response to our campaign, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock issued his same tired and discredited response: that David Hicks cannot be tried in Australia. So we asked David Hicks' US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori, to post a blog on GetUp's website outlining why he believes his client has been abandoned by the Australian Government (read and respond to him here).

Allowing politicians to do away with our most basic rights is dangerous and unacceptable. If you haven't already, please add your name to this important call now and share it with others. There's also a note you can use at the bottom of this email if you like.

Thank you for being part of this,
The GetUp team

Click here to access the Get Up site to add your name to the campaign.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dr James Zogby blames neocon "morons" for Middle East crisis

Dr James Zogby is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute, a non-partisan organisation designed to encourage Arab-American involvement in politics and the community in the US. He discusses the current Middle East conflict.

He is one of the few US based commentators I have heard in recent times that made any sense.

The transcript of his interview with Tony Jones on Lateline can be heard by clicking here.

Message in a bottle

Dear friend,

Amnesty International Australia needs your help to send a BIG Message to our Senators - do not abandon refugees.

The Australian Government's recently proposed changes to the Migration Act would see children being placed again in detention. Australia would be turning its back on refugees.

Add your name to the Amnesty International Australia Message in a Bottle campaign and help stop this inhumane policy. You can also give the campaign a big boost by starting your own bottle and asking friends to add their names. Please help us collect 10,000 names in two weeks.

Thank you,

Georgina Perry
National President
Amnesty International Australia

Click here to add your name and message to the Amnesty bottle campaign.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Enough is enough - bring David Hicks home

A message from Get Up for concerned Australians:

"For four and a half years, Australian citizen David Hicks has been locked up - allegedly tortured - without trial. Now, the US Supreme Court has confirmed what the world already knew: that David Hicks never had a hope for a fair trial because the system set up to try prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was fatally flawed from the start.

Enough is enough! No more waiting for a decision to be made somewhere else. No more excuses for supporting a system found to be unlawful. With our government facing unprecedented pressure to find a real solution now, tell them it's time for David Hicks to come home and let justice run its course.

As leaders from around the world had their citizens removed from Guantanamo Bay, and even America's staunchest allies called for this 'symbol of injustice' to be closed down, the Australian Government continued its support.

Their excuse has been that David Hicks cannot be tried in Australia - but eminent legal authorities have refuted this claim.*

The only path to justice now, without months or even years more of unwarranted delays, is for the Australian Government to step up and finally do its job. Demand Alexander Downer and John Howard take action to bring David Hicks home immediately - and let the evidence be heard.

When GetUp first began this campaign last year, media from around the world, starting with The New York Times, reported our willingness to defend the rights of a citizen our government had abandoned.

This week, one of Australia's leading prosecutors, NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nick Cowdery, QC, called Hicks' case "an unprincipled disgrace" and said the Government now had "no excuse" for not seeking his return.

Each of us has the right to a fair trial, and David Hicks' rights must no longer be forsaken for political convenience. If you haven't already, please join us now in taking a stand."

Click here to sign the open letter to the Australian Government organised by the Get Up team.

The violation of David Hick's rights has diminished all Australians. Our once proud stance in defence of international law and conventions has been seriously undermined by the Howard Government's political manipulation of this issue for propaganda purposes and to bolster the egregious strategy of reducing legal rights in the name of national security. You do not defend freedom and democracy by trashing the rule of law. The failure to allow habeas corpus to apply in the Hicks case is a serious human rights violation for which those responsible should be held legally accountable. Bernard Malamud's "The Fixer" should be compulsory reading for said politicians...Enough!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

World Vision revists the case for supporting asylum seekers

One Big Village, a community education initiative of World Vision Australia, sets out the case for assisting refugees. Following is an overview of the argument:

"Did you know that under international law everyone has a right to seek protection from persecution?

This is not a privilege given to an asylum seeker by a receiving country, but a right of every individual.

What’s more, children are entitled to extra protection under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The vast majority of refugees are in developing countries. For example, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese people have crossed the border into Chad in 2004 to escape conflict in their country.

Often such refugees need only temporary protection until they can return to their own countries. But those who require permanent protection in another country can go through formal process to seek asylum.

Only a few, mainly wealthy, countries, including Australia, have such processes in place."

The Howard Government has undermined Australia's once proud tradition of upholding international law and conventions and defending the rights of the weak and vulnerable. We have become a narrow minded, mean spirited polity in thrall to a mindset based on fear, exclusion and xenophobia. We are reduced in the process and our children can no longer feel proud of what we have let this country become.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Labor pushes Asia to end executions

The Border Mail reports LABOR has demanded Australia press regional nations to abolish the death penalty, as three Bali bombers and two Australian drug smugglers sit on death row in Asia.

Indonesia announced on Monday that the three Islamic terrorists responsible for the October, 2002, bombings, which claimed 202 lives including 88 Australians, could go before a firing squad by the end of the month.

Opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Nicola Roxon said July 11 marked the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Death Penalty Protocol.

“Death by hanging, beheading, electrocution, firing squad, or stoning is inhumane, no matter what the crime,” she said.

“Australia needs to use its position internationally and in the region to abolish the death penalty universally.

“In the past year, we have been sadly reminded of this by the hanging of Van Nguyen in Singapore, the first Australian to be executed since Michael McAuliffe was hanged in Malaysia in 1993.”

Mrs Roxon called for Australia to advocate more strongly for the abolition of the death penalty to regional neighbours and allies and to encourage their ratification of the protocol, which came into force under international law on July 11, 1991.

So far, just 57 countries have signed and ratified this protocol, including Australia.

Friday, July 14, 2006

China: Harvesting and Trading in Human Organs Is a Nation's Shame

The Epoch Times reports that "after reading the independent investigative report by former Canadian MP Mr David Kilgour and renowned international human rights lawyer Mr. David Matas, Father Feng Chi-wood - former Member of Hong Kong's Legislative council said that he is confident of the credibility of this report. He said: "These two men come from a professional background and I agree with their analysis."

Father Feng Chi-wood pointed out that this report further verifies that the Chinese Communist regime is indeed carrying out a brutal persecution of Falun Gong, "therefore I infer that an atrocity against human values, human dignity and human rights is truly happening in China, that is, stealing of human organs… This is a horrifying revelation that I cannot accept."

These alleged crimes must be investigated thoroughly and the regime responsible must be condemned for its culpability. China is responsible for ongoing atrocities against dissidents on many fronts, and yet wants to be seen as a world leader. It would do well to examine the loss of credibility the US is experiencing over prisoner abuses and its prosecution of the war in Iraq and adjust its position on Tibet and Falun Gong accordingly. The world is watching and will look more closely as the Olympic Games approach.

New report documents impact on Tibetan refugees of political turmoil and China's influence in Nepal

The International Campaign for Tibet, which I support, has released a new report entitled Dangerous Crossing, which reveals that dangers for Tibetans escaping from Tibet into exile through Nepal, and those resident in Nepal, intensified in 2005 as Beijing increased its influence on the Himalayan kingdom and King Gyanendra seized power from a failing government. The risks for Tibetans fleeing persecution in Tibet increased dramatically in 2005 with the notice to close the office of the Dalai Lama's representative in Kathmandu and the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office, both critical for the security and welfare of Tibetan exiles in Nepal, according to the report, which was released on World Refugee Day.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

China kills for organs

I have been taking a short break from blogging because of the school holidays but I could not let this report pass by without comment:

The SMH reports "a human rights lawyer and a former cabinet minister in Canada have added their weight to charges that China has been killing Falun Gong dissidents so it can use their organs.

The lawyer, David Matas, and the former secretary of state for Asia and the Pacific, David Kilgour, spent two months investigating the accusations, which China has regularly denied.

"It is simply inescapable that this is going on," Mr Kilgour told reporters on Thursday as he and Mr Matas released their findings."

The Epoch Times reports "Falun Gong practitioners are being systematically killed for their organs in labor and concentration camps across China. This is the message that Dr. Wenyi Wang wanted the world to know when she broke protocol and stopped Hu Jintao's speech at the White House on April 20. While the world's media has focused on her act of civil disobedience, the accumulating evidence pointing towards atrocities, which led Wang to her desperate act, has thus far been largely ignored – with a few significant exceptions."

The Epoch Times also reports on "taped testimony of "Annie," ex-wife of a doctor who extracted organs from live Falun Gong practitioners at the Sujiatun Death Camp, was played at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C."

I have been an ardent critic of this regime for a long time because of its systematic prosecution of a policy of cultural genocide in Tibet. Human rights abuses of Tibetans are so many and varied it beggars belief that any country claiming to defend human rights would maintain good relations with such a regime. The rape of Tibet is grounds enough for China to stand condemned for crimes against humanity, but market forces dictate that the Dalai Lama's nonviolent campaign for Tibetan freedom is largely ignored.

The persecution of the Falun Gong and other political dissidents has been equally numbing for the collective conscience of the international community. China is even rewarded for its crimes against humanity with the Olypmic Games. Illegal organ harvesting from political prisoners killed under state sanction does not come as any surprise as this regime has got away with human rights violations on a par with some of the worst regimes of the last century. No doubt China will continue to ignore the outrage of human rights activists and governments will persist with business as usual. This is the situation tolerated by a weak international leadership.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Government morally irresponsible: retiring church head

The Age reports the comments of retiring Uniting Church president Dean Drayton on the perforomamnce of the Howard Government:

"The Australian Government has sacrificed millions of people on the altar of the market, preferred to help the rich over the poor, and has made human rights negotiable, outgoing Uniting Church president Dean Drayton said in his farewell speech yesterday.

Dr Drayton, the president of Australia's third-biggest church for the past three years, stepped down with a blast for the Government, calling it morally irresponsible for its ignorance about claimed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and payment of wheat bribes of a third of a billion dollars to Saddam Hussein.

"With dreadful irony, cereal ignorance shows what happens when serial ignorance takes the place of truth and justice."

He also said Australia was "sucking dry" its Pacific and regional neighbours to maintain its own lifestyle.

He told the church's national assembly in Brisbane it had become "enmeshed and compliant as a church with those whose gospel is that if the rich get richer, all the rest will be a little better off".

"For too many of our politicians the market is God. Budget after budget of this Government has had a preferential option for the rich. At least 10 per cent of our population is trapped in poverty, and millions if not billions elsewhere in the world are sacrificed on the altar of this market economy. What we are blind about is the way we are allowing economic rationalism and the free market to control our country."

Dr Drayton said some human rights - those for Aborigines, asylum seekers, Papuans, and the poor - had become negotiable in Australia, anti-terrorist laws had traded away basic rights, and David Hicks had been abandoned. "Thank God for those within political parties who refuse to accept the excesses of these decisions," he said.

He also criticised rich Christians in the West who didn't "hear the call of Jesus to care for the poor".

Dr Drayton, one of Australia's most outspoken church leaders, said that despite many requests Prime Minister John Howard had refused to meet him. "He must have his reasons; I don't know what they are."

He said economic rationalism was a matter of faith for the Government but it meant the rich were getting richer and the poor poorer. He said that since 2001 Australians had lived in a climate of fear that led them to go along with the Government but on industrial relations the Government had gone too far and faced a profound backlash."

No wonder Howard did'nt want to meet him. The chord strikes deep and the word cuts close to the bone. We are living within a human rights challenged zone under this leadership but it does'nt seem to matter as long as "I'm alright Jack".

Monday, July 03, 2006

PNG rejects requests to take 'refugees'

The SMH reports "Papua New Guinea has turned down Australian requests that it take in Indonesian Papuan asylum seekers while their refugee applications are processed by Canberra.

Foreign Minister Rabbie Namaliu said an informal approach had been made to him by Australian High Commissioner Michael Potts to temporarily accommodate within the PNG community any Papuan asylum seekers who had made it to Australia directly from Papua."

The welfare of asylum seekers is being sacrificed yet again by governments playing to domestic audiences and aware of the leverage Jakarta can use over past dealings and agreements. The warehousing by Jakarta of middle eastern asylum seekers seeking refuge in Australia has SBY calling the shots on West Papuan refugees. Similarly, Indonesia's posturing on West Papua concentrates the PNG Government's mind on the implications of a hostile Jakarta sharing a large land border.