‘No ‘no’ to indefinite military guardianships’: Lawmakers say no to indefinite detention without trial
Australia’s parliament is considering a bill that would allow judges to order an indefinite military “guardian” to serve as a “defendant” for the purposes of a criminal trial.
The bill, which has been opposed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), is expected to pass in the upper house on Wednesday.
The Senate is expected on Thursday to approve the bill.
The proposed legislation is the result of a bipartisan campaign by the AFP to force a “no-trial” military detention regime that critics say allows the government to detain a significant number of asylum seekers indefinitely without due process, including the right to be represented by a lawyer.
The AFP argues that such detention conditions are needed to prevent people from returning to countries where they might face serious risks to their safety.
“The government should not be able to impose a blanket system of indefinite military detention on all Australians, with or without due processes, without a public debate,” AFP Assistant Commissioner Mark Binskin said in a statement.
“I can confirm that the bill has been debated in the House of Representatives and will be considered as soon as it is passed in the Senate.”
Under the bill, military guardians would be given immunity from prosecution for their roles in the operation of the detention centre.
But those who would face prosecution would be subject to detention orders for up to five years without trial, as well as “exceptions” to the detention order that could be made in the interests of national security.
In an attempt to bolster its case for the bill’s passage, the AFP has been lobbying for support from both the crossbench and Labor.
Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters on Wednesday that his party had also expressed support for the proposed legislation.
But Shorten said that the legislation would need to be amended to ensure that it did not infringe on the rights of defence lawyers.
“There’s a line between protecting people from harm and protecting a country,” Shorten was quoted as saying.
“That line needs to be crossed and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Shorten noted that the Senate had also been discussing the issue.
“If you look at the record in the United States, I think the courts have ruled that if you don’t have a defence, you can’t be detained,” he said.
The issue has gained particular attention in Australia after the death of a man, who was held in the military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2010.
The death prompted a national debate on the issue of indefinite detention.
In 2013, the Australian government signed an agreement with the United Kingdom to close the detention facility, which is the only facility in the world that holds people held by the United Nations or other international organisations.
But the agreement was never fully implemented.
It has since been criticised by rights groups and some asylum seekers, who say the detention is inhumane.
The Australian government has also recently admitted to holding detainees for more than six years without charges.