The launch of the Terrorism Laws: ASIO, the Police and You booklet has been reported in the July-August 2004 issue of the Muslim magazine Salam, and the August issue of the FAIR newspaper.
The following article by Anna Samson appeared in the August issue of FAIR.
Terrorism Laws: ASIO, the Police and You was launched by Supreme Court Justice, former Liberal Party MP and President of the International Commission of Jurists, John Dowd AO, on Monday 26 July.
Justice Dowd, Greens Senator Kerry Nettle and Vice President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, David Bernie, commended the know-your-rights guide to the gathering of lawyers, journalists, members of the Muslim community, civil rights advocates and politicians. The Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, Ian Carnell, and members of the Australian Federal Police were also present at the launch hosted by Greens MP Lee Rhiannon at NSW Parliament House.
The 40-page booklet was developed by the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN) with assistance from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties and the University of Technology Sydney Community Law Centre.
It contains detailed information about the augmented powers of ASIO and the Australian Federal Police in relation to search, detention and questioning arising from the series of anti-terrorism laws passed by Federal Parliament since 2001. The guide provides advice on what to do if contacted by an ASIO or AFP officer, the penalties for actions classified as terrorist offences, and complaints procedures. State anti-terror laws are also briefly canvassed.
Although the content of the guide is relevant to all citizens, the booklet has been specifically targeted to Australia’s Muslim community in recognition of the disproportionate impact of the anti-terrorism laws.
“The only proscribed terrorist organisations are those identifying as Islamic and the only homes raided by ASIO have been those of Muslim families,” Agnes Chong, project co-ordinator of Terrorism Laws reminded those at the launch.
“Following September-11 and the Bali bombing, human rights organisations in Australia and internationally have reported an increase in hate crimes against Muslims. The Government is not discouraging this uninformed and discriminatory behaviour, instead using the ‘war on terror’ as an excuse to wind back civil liberties.”
“Although these laws appear neutral on their face, the breadth of discretion and weakness of accountability procedures lends them to selective application and enforcement.”
Despite the booklet providing perhaps the most comprehensive and easily accessible guide to the rights of individuals affected by anti-terrorism legislation, the law in this area is changing rapidly and may render parts of the booklet redundant even during early stages of distribution. Since publication, the presumptions regarding bail have been changed, allowing bail for individuals charged with terrorism offences to be granted only in extraordinary circumstances.
Adjacent to the room where the booklet was launched the only public hearing of a six week Senate Inquiry into the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) 2004 was being conducted. The bill aims to give ASIO the power to confiscate passports without a warrant and establishes the offence of “associating” with “terrorists”. Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 3) will also be tabled in Parliament during the next sitting.
Terrorism Laws can be downloaded from the AMCRAN website (http://www.amcran.org). Hard copies can also be obtained directly from AMCRAN.