THE “TROUBLED TIMES in which we live” have spurred the peak body representing the Australian legal profession into establishing a Human Rights Observer Panel, set to play an important role in monitoring people’s rights internationally.
Some of Australia’s most senior lawyers will lend their expertise on the Law Council of Australia’s (LCA’s) panel, including Julian Burnside QC, who recently won a human rights award. According to LCA president John North, the panel has been established because of the times in which we live, and as a result of which “people have become concerned about protecting human rights”.
“There are so many human rights abuses internationally,” North told Lawyers Weekly. “The panel has been set up to deal with Australians who find themselves in trouble when we, as a panel, decide it’s unlikely they will be dealt with fairly.”
Pressed as to whether the panel would deal with situations such as that involving Australian Shapelle Corby, who is being tried on drugs charges in Indonesia, North said it hasn’t interfered in the Corby matter. “And no one has proposed it should because she is being tried according to Indonesian law. If it appeared to be an unfair trial, however, then they may look into it,” he said.
The panel will make recommendations to the LCA on cases in which it should consider involving a trial observer. The panel will play an important role in ensuring governments and other authorities protect the right to a fair trial, the LCA said, particularly when Australians are involved.
“The panel will concentrate its efforts in the Asia-Pacific region and will aim to cooperate with, rather than duplicate the efforts of other human rights organisations, especially those in the legal profession,” North said.
Members of the panel were nominated on the basis of getting “prominent, experienced lawyers” from every area of Australia, “not just the east coast”, North said.
The list includes Burnside, as well as Federal Court Justice Robert Nicholson from Western Australia and Victorian barrister Lex Lasry QC, the LCA observer of proceedings involving Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks. As well, Justice Jeffrey Miles, Andrew Kirkham QC, Justice Peter Sharkey, Ian Barker QC, Justice Glen Williams, Justice Ruth McColl, Glenn Martin SC, Michael Abbott QC, Professor Gillian Triggs and Graham Ellis.
North said he is delighted so many experienced lawyers will sit on the panel.