MEDIA RELEASE: AG's New Laws Hit Habib Squarely and Unfairly
Sydney, 14 March 2005 - Recent legislation introduced by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock to protect the disclosure of "secret" evidence in civil cases may make it more difficult for Mamdouh Habib to pursue civil action against the government.
The National Security Information Legislation Amendment Bill (2005) will
extend the Attorney-General's power to intervene in civil proceedings and
request for the non-disclosure of certain evidence or a particular witness'
testimony. Currently this power is only available for criminal proceedings.
"It seems odd that Mr Ruddock would choose to introduce these laws now that
Mr Habib is back in Australia, and asking for his day in court," says Dr
Waleed Kadous, co-convenor of AMCRAN, "The recommendations for these laws
were made back in May 2004, and half of them were implemented last year. Why
is the other half being implemented right now?
"The biggest problem with these laws is that it means that the
Attorney-General or another member of the government can use the cloak of
'national security' to cover up their mistakes.
"For example, if Mr Habib were to take civil action against the government,
and there was documentary evidence that showed that the government allowed
him to be tortured, the government could claim that such a document was
affected national security and block it. It's like having a man on the other
team being the line judge in a football game. If these amendments pass, we
may never know what really happened."
There is already evidence from some Administrative Appeals Tribunal cases
involving passports that the cloak of national security is being over-used
in recent cases.
"A better law would have an independent third party determine the national
security issues in criminal, civil and administrative matters. We understand
the need for national security to be protected, but it is important to
ensure that such issues are evaluated objectively and not by a potentially
interested party like the Attorney-General."
The Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN) is dedicated to
preventing the erosion of the civil rights of all Australians, and, by
drawing on the rich civil rights heritage of the Islamic faith, provides a
Muslim perspective in the civil rights arena. It does this through political
lobbying, contributions to legislative reform through submissions to
government bodies, grassroots community education, and communication with
and through the media. It actively collaborates with both Muslim and
non-Muslim organisations to achieve its goals.
For more information, contact:
Dr Waleed Kadous 0403 440 586
Press Release also available as PDF