A NATIONAL lawyers’ association has condemned the widely reported views of two academics that the torture of suspects by officials is justified in some circumstances.
In an ABC report, Deakin University Law School head, Professor Mirko Bagaric, was quoted as saying that “a society that protects the interests of wrong-doers over the innocent is morally warped”, and “absolute bans on torture are unrealistic but the practice should be reserved for life and death situations”.
The views, put forward in a paper by Bagaric and fellow Deakin lecturer Julie Clarke, have stirred a response from the Immigration Lawyers Association of Australasia, which has written to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone.
In a letter to Vanstone, the president of the Association, also president of the Queensland Law Society and vice president of LAWASIA, Glenn Ferguson, said members of the Association, as practitioners who work in the area of immigration and refugee law and related matters, found these reported views of Bagaric offensive, unforgivable and “even barbaric to us”.
Ferguson said the Association supported the president of the Law Council of Australia, John North’s argument that the legal profession is “dismayed” and “disappointed” at the views.
The Association was concerned Bagaric had not drawn any distinction between the torture of known criminals and innocent parties who are presumed to have information. As well, he appeared to draw no distinction between adults and children, Ferguson said.
“Given this view, we can only wonder if the torture of family members in the presence of the person from who the information is sought is also condoned,” he said.
“We take the civilised view that by equating the use of torture with an act of community self-defence, Professor Bagaric leaves open the possibility of using the same justification for other atrocities such as death squads, reprisals massacres and other acts of state terrorism,” Ferguson wrote.
Australia, he reminded Senator Vanstone, is a signatory to both the Refugee Convention and Protocol and the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture.
Lawyers call for sacking
LEGAL COMMENTATORS have called for Deakin University Law School head, Professor Mirko Bagaric, to be sacked from his position on the Refugee Review Tribunal, following publication of his views on torture.
In a letter to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, the Immigration Lawyers Association of Australasia said Bagaric’s views were so contrary to the Refugee Convention, the terms of which it is the role of the Refugee Review Tribunal to implement, “that he should either be asked for his immediate resignation or dismissed”.
“We are so concerned that his reported views could be used to cast doubt on the lawfulness of any of the decisions he has handed down and we urge you to seek independent advice as a matter of urgency to address this concern,” the letter stated.
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle last week also called for Bagaric to be sacked from his position, arguing it is inappropriate for a person who supports the use of torture to be sitting in judgement on asylum seekers, “many of whom will be torture victims themselves”.
“The danger of having a person with such outrageous ethical views on the Refugee Review Tribunal is exacerbated by the fact that the Tribunal allows just one person to decide and review each case,” Senator Nettle said.