NSWCCL Statement on Bernard Collaery

Yesterday Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus ordered for the cessation of the prosecution of Bernard Collaery after last week agreeing that he was giving the matter “serious consideration” during an interview on ABC’s The Law Report.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties President, Josh Pallas said that NSWCCL has always maintained that Bernard Collaery should never have been prosecuted. “The Australian national security laws used to prosecute Bernard Collaery and Witness K are some of the most oppressive national security laws in the world.”

The National Security Information Act governs how courts should handle sensitive information. The NSI Act requires the court to give “greatest weight” to the Attorney-General’s views about the national security implications of a case, which in Bernard Collaery’s case would have resulted in large portions of the hearings being held in secret. “At present the NSI Act is tilted too far in favour of national security and against the rights of accused people and the principle of open justice,” Mr Pallas said.

It is understandable that the people of Timor-Leste would feel a deep sense of betrayal from the actions of the Australian government in this matter.  Whilst President of East Timor Jose Ramos-Horta generously welcomed this decision he described the prosecution and persecution of Bernard Collaery and Witness K as a ‘bitter-chapter’ in Australian-Timor-Leste relations on ABC News this morning. President Ramos-Horta called for the return of Witness K’s passport and said that returning the passport of Witness K would show that Australia is stronger than the ‘petty punishment’ of a man who simply told the truth.

“The Attorney-General has made his intention clear to work to restore public confidence in government. Surely an open and publicly transparent conversation with a just outcome must be a priority,” Mr Pallas said. “Australians can see through this, they need to see that justice is done.”

NSWCCL has also written to the Attorney-General to push for his intervention in the prosecutions of David McBride and Richard Boyle, both of whom are currently facing prosecution under the draconian NSI Act for speaking up about serious wrong-doing. Mr Pallas said, “NSW Council for Civil Liberties wants to see the end of these oppressive political prosecutions.”

Read the statement of Xanana Gusmao here.