TWO LEADING international law experts were set to place Australia’s controversial anti-terrorism laws under the legal microscope in Sydney earlier this week.
Hina Jalani from Pakistan and Vitit Muntarbhorn from Thailand came as representatives of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to convene the Eminent Jurists Panel (EJP).
The independent hearing comprises eight internationally renowned jurists. The panel was chaired by Arthur Chaskalson, former Chief Justice of South Africa.
The hearings form part of the ICJ’s global study of legislative responses to terrorism and the human rights issues subsequently raised.
The sessions were due to be held in Sydney on 14 and 15 March. Hearings were also planned for Canberra on 16 March.
According to the ICJ, the hearing is a forum in which the key debate — “between those who argue that human rights should be restricted to protect people and those who argue that this threatens democratic values” — will be evaluated in terms both of Australia’s internal policy framework and its position in a global context.
The President of ICJ Australia, John Dowd QC, said the results of the hearing “will help the Australian community to identify key issues for ensuring respect for basic human rights and the rule of law in our fight against the increased threat of terrorism”.
He added that Jalani and Muntarbhorn were “internationally respected experts” who would “conduct a fair and independent examination of Australia’s laws”.
The hearings should “stimulate critical domestic debate about laws and policies and their impact on human rights”, an ICJ statement said, and would explore the “acceptable limits of counter-terrorism measures”.
Government officials and academics would present evidence, as would representatives from a range of leading legal and civil society organisations.
The study and its global counterpart examines issues that include “indefinite or secret detentions”, “criminalisation of political dissent” and “threats to freedom of expression”.
Elizabeth Evatt, Commissioner of ICJ Australia, noted that even though the subject matter might suggest discussion of potentially sensitive political issues, “it’s not targeted in any political sense”.
Attendees at the hearings were set to include John North of the Law Council of Australia and the ACT Department of Justice.