NSWCCL in the media

Media Statement: We need a royal commission into immigration detention

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties supports the campaign for a Royal Commission into
Immigration Detention – including onshore and offshore detention on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

The campaign for a Royal Commission into Immigration Detention is being launched at Parliament
House in Canberra on Tuesday 28 November 2023, hosted by Kylea Tink, Member for North Sydney.

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Media Statement: S93z amendments should be referred to the standing issues committee

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties has consistently raised our concerns with respect to
the proposed Crimes Amendment (Prosecution of Certain Offences) Bill 2023. We note our previous
press release issued on 23 November 2023 on this issue.

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The Guardian: Rights groups condemn ‘police repression’ at ‘peaceful’ pro-Palestine rally in Sydney

Protesters who participated in a pro-Palestine rally in Sydney on Tuesday night, forcibly dispersed by the police, are challenging the assertion made by New South Wales Premier Chris Minns that the police response was reasonable.

Twenty-three individuals were arrested and charged by NSW police during the protest at Port Botany, which targeted the unloading of a ship owned by the Israeli company ZIM, known for its support of the Israeli government in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza. The organizers, Palestine Justice Movement Sydney and Unionists for Palestine, along with civil rights groups, criticized the police for their handling of the situation. Riot squad and mounted officers were deployed to forcibly disperse the crowds, including children.

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Letter to NSW Police Commissioner about NSW Police Treatment of Legal Observers

Open Letter to the Police Commissioner from Lydia Shelly

I write in my capacity as the President of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (the Council), one of Australia’s leading human rights and civil liberties organisations. This is an open letter addressing concerns about the treatment of independent Legal Observers by the New South Wales Police (NSW Police) during a recent climate change protest in Newcastle.

The Council, founded in 1963, is a non-political, non-religious, and non-sectarian organisation dedicated to championing the rights of all to express their views and beliefs without suppression. We hold Non-Government Organisation status in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, as per resolution 2006/221 (21 July 2006).

At the climate change protest on Sunday, November 26, 2023, in Newcastle, several Legal Observers were charged for activities that were within their role as Legal Observers. These individuals were easily identifiable by wearing pink high-visibility jackets with "Legal Observers" written across the vest in large black letters. Furthermore, the arrested Legal Observers informed the police of their independent role and function at the protest.

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Media Statement: Police Must Withdraw Charges against Legal Observers

We are concerned that New South Wales (NSW) police have arrested several Legal Observers at the recent climate change protest that occurred on Sunday, November 25, 2023.

Legal Observers attend protests, usually as volunteers, to protect the rights of those protesting and to improve police accountability. Their hands-on tasks include handing out information cards, briefing people about their legal rights, taking notes and photographs, and video recording interactions. Volunteer Legal Observers are recognized as Human Rights Defenders by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and, as such, fall under the protection of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

The Declaration of the Right to Protest, which we recently endorsed, recognizes the important role of Legal Observers and calls for their protection. Their role and importance do not diminish or extinguish even if a protest is declared “unlawful.”

The Legal Observers at the recent climate change protest were clearly identifiable in pink hi-vis vests with “Legal Observers” written on them. They informed NSW police of their role at the protest.

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The Guardian: Fears tough new hate speech powers for NSW police could have ‘chilling effect’ on public debate

In response to escalating tensions surrounding the conflict in Gaza, a legislative reform has been introduced to the New South Wales parliament, granting the police the authority to bring charges for threats and incitement to violence based on race and religion. Premier Chris Minns, emphasizing the need for robust hate speech laws, announced the change after a prompt review of existing legislation, stating that such laws should possess substantial enforcement capabilities.

However, the proposed reform has faced criticism from prominent legal figures who argue that safeguards are crucial, expressing concerns that the changes could potentially "open the floodgates for controversial speech to be investigated."

Under the current system, police are required to obtain approval from the director of public prosecutions (DPP) before charging individuals for making threats or inciting violence. The proposed amendment seeks to bypass the DPP, entrusting the power directly to the police.

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Yahoo!news: Israel-Palestine tensions prompt change to 'hate' laws

The hate speech laws in NSW are set for a revision to address concerns about the rising threats of violence amid ongoing tensions related to the Gaza conflict. The current legislation, which criminalizes public threats or incitement of violence based on factors such as race, religion, or sexual orientation, is deemed ineffective in deterring such behavior, according to the state government.

On Tuesday, the Labor party introduced a bill to parliament aiming to eliminate a procedural hurdle in the criminal sanctions. Currently, the Director of Public Prosecutions must approve a case before it can proceed. The proposed changes seek to empower NSW Police to independently prosecute the offense without requiring additional approval. Individuals found guilty of this crime could face a maximum penalty of up to three years imprisonment and an $11,000 fine. 

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NSWCCL Statement on the School Srike: Young People Should Be Supported to Exercise Free Speech and Expression

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties stands with High School students who plan to strike on Friday 24 November.

The extraordinary criticism of High School students and University students engaging in their democratic right to build peaceful coalitions and movements of young people does not detract from the fact that students have a right to engage in protests. The CCL affirms the rights of the public, especially young people, to exercise their right to protest free from political intimidation and criticism.

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NSWCCL Statement: NSW cannot be prosecuted into social cohesion

We are deeply concerned that the Minns Labor Government has signalled their intention to remove the Director of Public Prosecution (“the DPP”) as a safeguard to prosecuting individuals pursuant to section 93Z of the Crimes Act 1900 in response to lobbyists from faith-based organisations.

We stand by our previous statements regarding the right for all Australians to enjoy their religious freedoms, as well as their right to not hold any religious beliefs at all.

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Joint Statement: Civil Rights Groups Condemn Police Repression of Port Botany Rally

NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Democracy Network
are deeply concerned about the heavy-handed police repression of a peaceful protest near
Port Botany yesterday evening.

The protest, organised by Unionists for Palestine, consisted of a group of about 400, with
children and elderly people in attendance, making speeches and marching. Police did not allow
the protest to march on the road and instead directed it onto a roadside path leading to Sirius
Rd near the entrance of Port Botany. No vehicles were attempting to enter via this road during
this time.

When the protest paused near this driveway and protestors were peacefully sitting on the
ground, police issued move on orders and began arresting attendees. Legal observers and
others on the scene did not witness a reason being given for the move on orders.

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