Human rights are said to be an attribute of any human being as humans are born free and equal. However, as legal norms they do not designate what is, but what ought to be. They are not statements of fact; as normative values they provide us with a yardstick for measuring and evaluating the reality.
Persons whose life and liberty are not threatened, who enjoy their family life, who can express themselves, whose beliefs are respected, and who possess a standard of living that is adequate to human needs live a ‘good life’, i.e. a life in freedom and dignity. This dimension of human rights provides hope and explains why so many oppressed people all over the world rally under the flag of human rights when standing up against their oppressors. This also explains why people would risk their lives boarding unseaworthy boats and make a perilous journey to our shores in search of a ‘good life’.
I ask you to turn your minds back to 2001 when 353 men, women and children drowned aboard the doomed refugee boat Siev X. Since October 19, 2001 the circumstances surrounding the sinking of the Siev X have morphed into agenda politics, a vehicle used by refugee advocates, politicians and special interest groups to lend moral weight to their partisan arguments. Such is their zeal to do this that the facts surrounding the sinking are becoming lost amid a shroud of myths, rumours and conspiracy theories.
Before I say anything more on the matter I know that refugees are not Indigenous Australians and that we all know, courtesy of our Federal Parliamentarians supported by their State and Territory brethren, that all Muslims are fundamentalists and potentially terrorists whose sole purpose in life is to destroy civilization as we know it. I for one don’t buy the hype, probably because I’m a blak cynical bastard!
The point – today I was contacted via the Aboriginal Tent Embassy by an Indonesian lawyer who has read my blog and wanted to pass on some information to me regarding the Siev X incident and what he views as the role of the AFP in the incident. On hearing this every membrane receptor in my body shouted in unison – conspiracy theory run for the hills, or at least the marbled caverns of Parliament House. But something else made me stay and listen; perhaps it was the earnestness and bearing of my interlocutor, I’m not sure. Anyway, I stayed and listened.
The story that was relayed to me, if true, makes me feel ashamed to call myself Australian, and that is saying something! In a nutshell my interlocutor said he could provide documentary evidence which would substantiate the claims that have been circulating for the last nine years that the AFP were involved in the loading and dispatch of the Siev X from Indonesia to Christmas Island as part of the people smuggling disruption activities sanctioned by the Howard Government. When I have received further and better particulars from my contact I will publish them once verified.
While doing some on-line research after this encounter into the Siev X incident, I came across something else that is relevant to the material that I have been placing on this blog. In an article headed AFP battles to conceal corruption allegations, the on-line edition of the Brisbane Times from July 18, 2010 reported that the AFP were resisting efforts by NSW anti-corruption to tender statements outlining corrupt activities by AFP officers. The details in the article are slim because the matters were and probably still are before the courts. The significance, as stated in the Brisbane Times article, is that:
The AFP has been little touched by scandal – barring, for example, the wrongful arrest of Mohamed Haneef in 2007 on suspicion of terrorism. But in 1997 it kept the lid on evidence given in camera in its own corruption inquiry by Sydney senior counsel Ian Harrison. The names of 90 agents investigated were never disclosed.
The fact that 90 AFP agents were investigated in secret for corruption and that the details of those investigations are being kept from public scrutiny beggars belief. One the themes of my blog is accountability. I have singled out the AFP on a number of occasions because unlike their NSW, Victorian or even Queensland counterparts they are not subject to independent scrutiny.
Not only are they not subject to scrutiny, but they are seemingly above the law. The AFP is about one third the size of the NSW Police Force but accounts for nearly one third of all complaints I have collected alleging human rights violations committed against Indigenous Australians by serving Australian police officers. The allegations made against the AFP are also some of the most violent and degrading.
When I first took my concerns to the Commonwealth Ombudsman I was basically told that the AFP is a ‘sacred cow’ and beyond reproach – no scandals in their camp. Why would that be I asked and was politely but firmly shown the front door. But, it is not just me and some black ‘shirt stirrers’ making these allegations, it is NSW anti-corruption officers, Indonesian interlocutors and bugger me, it’s even the Wood Royal Commission.
What concerns me as an Australian is that what happened to Mr. Marten, which I discussed in my post The first thing we should learn or Mohamed Haneef or perhaps even Schapelle Corby can happen to any one of us, for any reason, if the organisations that are there to ‘protect’ us are allowed to operate outside of the ‘rule of law’.
More specifically, I’m concerned that what the AFP are doing on a daily basis to Indigenous Australians will continue unabated and extend to all marginalised people unless the AFP as an institution and the individuals who make up that institution are brought to account.