LAW IS one of our allies and can help us in the fight against terrorism, international legal experts heard last week at the inaugural meeting of the legal issues working group on counter terrorism.
Presenting the opening address, federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock raised the importance of the task ahead and the role of legislative frameworks in counter terrorism.
The two-day gathering in Canberra was the first of the working group of legal experts, who will be striving to build legal regimes that make it harder for terrorists to pose a threat internationally.
The experts will consider what more can be done in this region to strengthen anti-terrorism laws in keeping with international law obligations. Cooperative arrangements will be made for gathering evidence and extraditing terror suspects.
In his opening address on Wednesday, A-G Ruddock said the meeting provides those involved the opportunity to discuss their retrospective laws and one “to work toward a common and mutually reinforcing legal framework”.
Ruddock stressed the importance of the working group which, he said, had an important task. “Terrorism cannot be beaten by force alone. It is essential that we have the necessary laws and legal processes in place,” he said.
Referring to 12 conventions on counter terrorism internationally, Ruddock said they provided a blueprint for a united legal approach to fighting terrorism.
“If these conventions can be implemented by all countries, not just those in our region but throughout the world, we will be close to achieving a seamless legal framework that has no gaps for the terrorists to exploit,” he said.
Several of the conventions have been enshrined in Australian domestic law for some time, Ruddock said.
“We have now signed and implemented 11 of the 12 treaties and I might say I am working hard with my colleagues to ensure that we can sign the last as quickly as possible.” The convention on the marking of plastic explosives remains unsigned.
Our laws should respond to changes, Ruddock said. He described the counter-terrorism legislative framework as an “unfinished canvas”, suggesting there is always more that can be done.
Urging regional and bilateral cooperation, Ruddock said individual countries also needed to put in place legislation for mutual assistance to work effectively.
“We all need to examine our mutual assistance enabling legislation to enure that it supports as many countries as effectively as possible,” he said. “Similarly, domestic extradition legislation should enable extradition between as many countries as possible.”
Ruddock concluded by outlining the importance of the working group. “It is up to you to give detail, meaning and substance to the principle of regional cooperation,” he said.
“You have the task of reporting on how legal cooperation is progressing. And you have the task of identifying where further improvements can be made.”