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Is detention of asylum seekers a breach of human rights? Video from the Castan Centre

The Castan Centre for Human Rights Law has released this video in the Have You Got That Right? video series to answer the question - does detention of asylum seekers breach human rights?

Asylum seekers are subjected to mandatory detention in a number of countries. A notable example is Australia. Asylum seekers who arrive (or who are intercepted while attempting to arrive) in Australia by boat are held in detention centres in Australian territory and in other countries under arrangements made and funded by Australia. These days, most such arrivals are detained in Nauru and in Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Such detention occurs automatically, and normally lasts for the entire period in which an asylum claim is being determined, which can be a very long time. Both adults and children are detained.

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ALP leader Bill Shorten faces big test on civil liberties

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks was quoted in The Saturday Paper on Labor's position on data retention and other national security issues, particularly their continued alignment with the Government on all aspects. Stephen indicated he was appalled not only by the various tranches of unnecessary national security legislation itself - including the extraordinary powers given to ASIO to access individuals computers, the exemption of ASIO officers from prosecution, the criminalising of reporting on ASIO special operations, and the ability to cancel passports without notice or right of appeal - but also that Labor has "rolled over" to pass them. 

"I’m afraid I’ve got to the point where I don’t think Labor believes in anything," Stephen said, "Everything is tradeable. It is a political tactic to enable them to say there is not a cigarette paper of difference between them and the government on this stuff."

Article: ALP leader Bill Shorten faces big test on civil liberties

Source: The Saturday Paper, 14/03/15

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TAKE ACTION: Imminent passage of mass data retention and surveillance in Australia

Next week the Parliament of Australia will debate the highly contentious and dangerous data retention bill (Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014).  This bill, if passed, will mandate the collection and retention for two years of telecommunications data on all citizens – suspect and non-suspect alike –  for subsequent access and analysis by intelligence and security agencies, police and other agencies.

No warrant will be necessary to access this data.  

If this bill becomes law, Australia will have one of the most extensive and intrusive data collection and surveillance regimes in the democratic world. 

NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to all Labor MPs and Senators. We need you to do this too

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NSWCCL opposes new spitting offence

NSW Council for Civil Liberties has indicated its opposition to the creation of a new spitting offence, proposed by the Police Association of NSW. An act of this nature is already covered under the existing offence of assault, and so further legislation is unnecessary. The police union is also calling for powers that force anyone who transmits a bodily fluid - including spit, blood or urine - to emergency workers, to be tested for diseases. CCL would support the introduction of this kind of mandatory testing provided there is appropriate regulation and safeguards in place. 

Article: Cops union calls for new spitting offence

Source: 9 News, 11/3/15

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NSWCCL President warns against 'not guilty' pleas and privacy issues concerning domestic violence register

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has warned against the automatic placement of offenders on a proposed domestic violence register, strongly urging that a court should decide whether to place somebody on the register based on an assessment of their risk to the community.

"If it's automatic, we will see an enormous change in the way people treat their defence," he said. "It will be a huge incentive on everyone charged with domestic violence offences to plead not guilty, which is quite counter-productive. We want a system where people are encouraged to recognise their guilt."

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Australia's data retention laws 'the worst in the developed world'

Following on from the release of the PJCIS Report into the Data Retention Bill on Friday 27/02/15 CCL Vice President Oscar Coleman spoke to FBi's Backchat program about the report, labelling the proposed metadata laws 'the worst in the developed world'. Oscar stated the report made only minor recommendations to the Bill and still supports 'largely what [Attorney-General] Brandis wanted to do in the first place'. He encouraged listeners to contact their Labor MP or Senator. 

Audio: Data Retention Bill

Source: FBi Backchat, 28/02/15

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CCL President argues metadata laws 'not a counter-terrorism measure'

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to The Wire in response to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments that mandatory data retention is necessary to combat terrorism and child sexual abuse, arguing that this is not a counter-terrorism measure.

Stephen told The Wire: "The Government should allow parliament proper time to consider all of its ramifications… In countries where there are human rights standards, Governments and Parliaments are rejecting this kind of legislation because it involves a disproportionate invasion of people's privacy for no proven benefit."

He warned that police will have easy access to the metadata as "there is no independent supervision of the law enforcement agencies when they access data…There are [also] a very large number of [other] agencies in Australia that have access to metadata and this proposal will give those agencies enormous powers." Stephen further stated that access to our collected metadata should be subject to a court warrant first.

Story/Audio: Metadata laws; fighting crime or invading privacy? The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: The Wire 18/02/2015

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CCL President labels Abbott's new security proposals 'counter productive'

In a YouTube video released on Sunday the Prime Minister has hinted at a national security crackdown involving the tightening of migration and welfare rules. On SBS News NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks argued that a further national security crackdown could be counter productive:

"You don't defeat every terrorist incident by increasing the powers of the national security agencies. You don't destroy freedom in order to protect it. What you do is you should promote community coherence. You should make sure everybody in our society is committed to our common ideals and not drive wedges between them because driving wedges between them is going to perpetuate these kinds of attacks."

Stephen also warned that possible welfare changes could result in a backlash from innocent Australians:

"The community is going to find that very intrusive and unacceptable. People should not have to say they reject terrorism in order to get a Centrelink benefit. That is something that something that is just going too far. That is going to make people suspicious of the entire security apparatus that has been erected around them."

Stephen also spoke to "the Wire", noting that following the extraordinary case of Man Haron Monis, reactionary bail reforms appear to be on the agenda and threaten to undermine the fundamental presumption of innocence: "Bail is not an excuse to start locking people up as if they are presumed guilty." He also warned that welfare reforms could potentially lead to 'McCarthy' style systems where welfare recipients may need to prove that they are not terrorist sympathisers in order to receive benefits.

Transcript/Audio: Criticism of Abbott's new security proposals
Video: Criticism of Abbott's new security proposals. The content we linked to is no longer available
Source: SBS News, 16/2/2015

Article/Audio: National Security - have we been too lenient too long?Source: The Wire, 16/2/2015

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NSWCCL condemns PM's attacks on Human Rights Commission

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties condemns the Prime Minister’s attack on the credibility of the Human Rights Commission (HRC), and Commissioner Gillian Triggs following the release of the Commission’s damning report into the detention of asylum seeker children.

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Civil liberties councils bring Citizenfour to Canberra - media

Civil liberties councils across Australia organised the screening [of Citizenfour] with the help of Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. The award-winning film documents the circumstances in which Snowden blew the lid off the NSA's mass surveillance activities in the US and the Britain.

Queensland Labor MP Graham Perrett says he has serious concerns about the Abbott government's proposed data retention bill but remains confident it can be passed with judicious amendments.

"I'm not a big fan of anyone revealing information that puts any of our professional staff at risk but I do know that the enthusiasm of intelligence agencies needs to be moderated and I think that Parliament has an important role in that,"Mr Perrett.

Article: Concerned about data retention bill: Labor MPs react to Edward Snowden doco CitizenFour

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 11/2/2015

See also

Article: Civil liberties councils bring #Citizenfour to Canberra, No Fibs, 11/2/2015, The content we linked to is no longer available

Article: Data retention hinges on Labor's support, ZDNet, 13/02/2015

Article: Citizenfour: meet NSA whistleblower Snowden, Honi Soit, 18/02/2015

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Police privacy worries should be shared by all

Details of the illegal surveillance of over 100 people - including senior NSW police - under scrutiny in a NSW parliamentary inquiry should ring alarm bells on another front in the digital privacy wars.

As Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas described the "decade of angst" caused by the invasion of his privacy, and the bugging of his ex-wife and children's home, NSW Police were down in Canberra arguing to federal politicians that they should have open slather to invade the privacy of the public at large.

...Judges are rubber stamps when it comes to police seeking warrants for telephone intercepts in NSW. The NSW Civil Liberties Council has previously called for the introduction of the Queensland system to cut out rubber-stamping. A Queensland public interest monitor scrutinises each surveillance warrant and questions whether the police evidence justifies the privacy invasion of a "bug", and can argue this case before the judge.

Article: Police privacy worries should be shared by all

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 8/2/2015

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NSWCCL calls for mercy for two Australian citizens on death row in Indonesia

NSWCCL calls on the Australian government to make all diplomatic efforts to stop the executions of the two Australian citizens on death row in Indonesia facing imminent execution.  The NSWCCL has signed a joint letter with a range of other organisations to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, urging such efforts be made, and to the Indonesian Ambassador in Australia seeking mercy for the two Australian citizens facing imminent execution.

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Fighting mandatory data retention: CITIZENFOUR to screen at Parliament House

"The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties is taking an unusual route in the fight to stop data retention, swapping out Twitter for the silver screen... [The council] aims to screen the film for politicians and media in Canberra, raising money to rent a viewing space in Parliament House for a February 9 screening, presented in conjunction with Madman Entertainment and Electronic Frontiers Australia." 

Article: CITIZENFOUR to Screen at Parliament House
Source: 4:3 Film, 23/01/2015

"In an effort to persuade MPs of the bill’s danger, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties is currently hosting screenings of Laura Poitras’ documentary film CitizenFour, an insider look at the Edward Snowden affair which exposed the global scale of the National Security Agency’s data gathering operations... All federal MPs have been invited to the film’s Canberra screening, to be held Monday night, which the organisation is currently fundraising for."

Article: Abbott 'Bullying' Labor On Data Retention Laws, Says Ludlam. Article no longer available
Source: New Matilda, 05/02/15

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Australia marked down on human rights by Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2015, comments on the Australian government’s human rights record in 2014, stating that the government's failure to respect international standards protecting asylum seekers and refugees continues to take a heavy human toll and undermines Australia’s ability to call for stronger human rights protections abroad. HRW reports on the introduction of new counterterrorism measures, describing them as 'overboard,' stating that the measures would infringe on freedoms of expression and movement. The report also highlights the government's failure to take action to address indigenous rights and disability rights.

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Never releasing terrorists from jail a 'scorched earth policy'

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has responded to the suggestion made by a former judge that terrorists should be kept in prison after their sentences expire if they still hold extreme religious views. Speaking to ABC Radio Current Affairs AM, Stephen characterised these comments as "a scorched earth policy":

"What a dangerous suggestion it is that people should be kept locked up just because of their opinions, and what a terrible indictment on our system that we can't, through a process of programs in prison, deradicalise these individuals."

Listen: Stephen Blanks stunned by suggestion of not releasing terrorist from jail. The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: ABC Radio Current Affairs, AM, 29/01/15

 

See also: Prison radicalisation expert Clarke Jones says segregation only strengthening terrorists' beliefs, Sydney Morning Herald, 29/01/15

Judge's call to keep terrorists in prison indefinitely stuns civil liberties campaigners, ABC Radio, The World Today, 29/01/15

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Aussies on death row part of a grim line to have faced possible death sentence

Death row inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan stand in a grim line of nearly 90 Australians who have faced a possible death sentence overseas in the past 30 years.

NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks stated "Every criminal is entitled – even the worst murderers, the worst drug dealers – to the opportunity to reform themselves."

Article: Aussies on death row part of a grim line to have faced possible death sentence

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 25/1/2015

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Joint Submission: Telecommunications (intercept and access) amendment (data retention) Bill 2014

Last year civil liberties and human rights groups resisted, with limited success, the worst elements of the veritable tsunami of new counter-terrorism laws the Abbot Government brought in swift succession to the Parliament.  Now we are fast approaching a decision point in the highly significant and contentious debate as to whether the Australian Parliament will legislate the mandatory collection and retention of mass telecommunications data for the bulk of the population to enable retrospective access by authorities.

It would be a major negative step for a democratic system. It will be a major intrusion on every citizen’s right to privacy - including those not suspected of any unlawful activity. This will have major flow-on implications for other freedoms and democratic values. In particular, it will undermine a robust and free press and constrain legitimate whistle-blowers by removing any confidentiality from all phone and internet communications.  

The combined CCLS consider it to be a step too far. We strongly oppose the policy concept and urge the Parliament to reject it. 

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Sydney siege aftermath: stop paid interviews going to air, says former coroner

Paid interviews with Sydney siege hostages should be prevented from going to air because they risk tainting future evidence and weakening the coronial process, former state coroner John Abernethy says.

Former Director of Public Prosecutions and NSWCCL committee member Nicholas Cowdery AM QC also fears hostages involved in exclusive cash-for-comment deals may give colourful, definitive accounts to satisfy a television audience, then feel compelled to repeat the same accounts in court, even if their views have shifted.

Article: Sydney siege aftermath: stop paid interviews going to air, says former coroner

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 22/1/2015

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Sydney siege interviews 'could prejudice'

A number of Sydney siege survivors have reportedly signed six-figure deals to tell their stories to television networks, however legal experts have raised concerns about impacting the inquests into the deaths which are currently underway.

Former Director of Public Prosecutions and NSWCCL committee member Nicholas Cowdery AM QC raised concerns saying it could lead to the victims exaggerating their accounts to make good TV.

"There are a lot of areas of concern - moral, ethical, freedom of the press, and so on," he told AAP on Thursday.

"The part of it I'm particularly interested in is the integrity of the formal legal processes to run their course without being hampered by the sale of stories beforehand."

Article: Sydney siege interviews 'could prejudice'

Source: SBS, 22/01/2015

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'Outrage' if Bali Nine executions proceed

Bali Nine death row inmates Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are on a list of 26 prisoners Indonesia says will be executed this year, including six who will be killed this Sunday.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Stephen Blanks said the Australian government should be making it clear to Indonesia that the Australian public "regards these executions as unacceptable and unjustifiable".

Mr Blanks said it was "reprehensible" that Indonesia was resuming executions.

"The death penalty is wrong in all countries and in all circumstances," Mr Blanks said.

Article: 'Outrage' if Bali Nine executions proceed. The content we linked to is no longer available

Source: Yahoo 7, 16/11/2014

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