December 27, 2004 – Human Rights Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia, September 2004: In a major address, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Irene Khan tells an assembled crowd of Australians that the “framework of human rights, international law and multilateral co-operation that Australia helped to build is today undergoing the most sustained attack since its establishment half a century ago. And, I am afraid that, contrary to its heritage, Australia, far from resisting those attacks, is contributing to them”.

This documentary looks at some of the criticisms that Australia has faced in recent years over its approach to human rights and focuses on two aspects of current government policy – its treatment of asylum seekers and its legislative response to the so-called “War on Terror”. Civil rights activists and international law specialists maintain that Australia’s policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers and its legislative response to the War on Terror represent violations of international law and impinge on key civil rights. However, Government ministers remain adamant that the country has violated no international treaties and maintain that Australia has the right to protect its borders and people from terrorist and other threats. Drawing on interviews with Government ministers, civil rights activists and lawyers, refugees, Muslim Australians and academics. During the next half hour we will look at the nature of Australia’s engagement with human rights in the 21st century.

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