US Senate committee backs new war powers
Daily Star [12/12/14]:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted Thursday to authorize President Barack Obama’s war against ISIS – the first vote in Congress to explicitly grant him war powers in the U.S. battle against the militant extremists.
The vote was 10-8, with most Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
The committee chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez said he would seek a full Senate vote on the measure before the current Congress ends, but it’s more likely that the authorization will be delayed until the next, Republican-led Congress, which starts Jan. 1.
In the U.S. battle against ISIS, Obama has been relying on congressional authorizations that former President George W. Bush used to justify military action after 9/11.
Critics say the White House’s use of post-9/11 congressional authorizations is a legal stretch, at best.
Obama has insisted that he had the legal authority to send about 3,000 U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces, and launch 1,100 airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria since September. More recently, the president has said that he wants a new authorization for use of military force.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday whatever new authorization Congress passes should not limit U.S. military action to Iraq and Syria or prevent the president from deploying ground troops if he later deems them necessary.
Menendez’ resolution, which was passed, would authorize the president to use military force against ISIS and associated persons or forces – individuals fighting for or on behalf of ISIS. It would limit the activities of U.S. forces so that there would be no large-scale ground combat operations. Menendez has said that if the president feels he needs that, then he should ask Congress for authorization to do that.
The authorization would be limited to three years and would require the administration to report on the fight against ISIS every 60 days. He said a three-year time limit would allow Obama and the next president time to assess the situation and make decisions about whether and how to continue military action against ISIS.
Al Jazeera Media Network has announced the death of its Arabic correspondent in Syria, Mahran Al Deeri, while covering battles in the city of Al Sheikh Maskin in rural Daraa.
According to his family members, Mahran died on Wednesday while taking cover from government fire as his car hit the vehicle of rebel fighters after he turned off his headlights to avoid being targeted. … [Al Jazeera – 11/12/14]
Backroom Move Strips 'Backdoor' NSA Spying Ban From Spending Bill [Huffington Post – 10/12/14]
WHO raises alarm over healthcare in Ukraine
The lack of doctors and medicines in the eastern Ukrainian conflict zone is putting lives at risk says a new World Health Organization report, which describes the situation on the ground as “not just a humanitarian crisis.”
“No child has been vaccinated in the areas affected by conflict since September 2014, sending polio vaccine coverage down to less than 30-40 percent,” the WHO report reads.
Fears of Ukraine becoming increasingly vulnerable to preventable diseases are becoming ever more real.
The report comes up with more “daunting” statistics in the section titled “Not just a humanitarian crisis,” where it speaks about the first casualties of the botched healthcare system.
“About 40 patients in a mental health institution have reportedly died from hunger, cold and lack of care,” it says.
The WHO argues 60 villages situated in between the front lines of the Kiev troops and the rebels have been left with no medical personnel at all. It also estimates the city of Lugansk has only a third of the doctors and nurses that used to work there.
“Universal health care exists only on paper,” says Dorit Nitzan, the WHO representative for Ukraine. “People have to pay for a large portion of health services, procure their own medicines and there are no set prices for these essentials.”
The WHO is trying to assist with mobile emergency units, consisting of one doctor, two nurses and a logistician. The units are dealing primarily with internally displaced people, assessing their health and trying to refer them to any medical services that still exist.
The Russian charity, Fair Aid, run by a renowned Russian philanthropist, Elizaveta Glinka - better known as just Doctor Liza – has meanwhile been regularly transporting children with serious health problems to medical institutions in Moscow.
She has already helped 36 children from Donetsk get treatment in the Russian capital. And she was accompanying another group of 13 kids - 4 of them born this year, and others aged from 4 to 12 years – on Wednesday.
“All the children I bring to Moscow are seriously ill - some of them have epilepsy with frequent seizures, some have congenital heart disorders,” Glinka told RT’s Roman Kosarev, as the bus was about to set off from Donetsk.
Ivan Kravchenko, father of 3-year-old Ilya, who has heart disease, said Fair Aid was their last hope.
“Surgeons are nowhere to be found – they’ve all left,” Ivan told RIA Novosti. “The fund found out about us and offered assistance...” Everything, from the trip to Moscow to the surgery itself, will be free of charge for Ilya.
The main challenge is safely passing the Ukrainian section of the road from Donetsk to Konstantinovka on the border with Russia.
“There are checkpoints, and the road is completely ruined by tanks,” Elizaveta Glinka said. “We'll have to hold our children tight - as you can see, we don't have the prams we need - so we just have to draw them close to us and hold them with our hands.”
'Post' chief responds to being named suspect
Jakarta Post [11/12/14]:
The Jakarta Post’s chief editor Meidyatama Suryodiningrat issued a statement on Thursday evening in response to the announcement made by the Jakarta Police that he has been named a suspect in a blasphemy case.
"We have received information on the matter and currently we are still studying it," he said in the statement.
"We are amazed because the fact is we did not commit a criminal act as accused. What we produced was a journalistic piece that criticized the ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] movement, which has carried out violence in the name of religion. It means that the ISIS caricature was not blasphemous. We all know that ISIS is an organization that is banned in Indonesia and across almost the entire world."
Meidyatama added that the Post had received a statement from the Press Council that declared the case was merely related to journalism’s code of ethics and so was not a criminal matter.
"This should fall within the jurisdiction of the Press Council," he stated.
"However, we respect the ongoing process and we will follow it in accordance with the prevailing regulations."
Time well spent ...
Surfers Paradise [12/12/14]
Countess Street, Brisbane [12/12/14]
Hong Kong pro democracy protesters to rebuild Lennon Wall
France 24 [12/12/14]:
Pro-democracy protesters have vowed to rebuild the famous "Lennon Wall" which sat at the heart of Hong Kong's main protest camp, after it was swept clear by police.
The wall at the centre of the camp became a patchwork of thousands of multi-coloured sticky notes carrying messages of support for protesters -- an emotive symbol of the pro-democracy movement that paralysed parts of Hong Kong for more than two months.
The sprawling camp of tents, supply stations and art installations in the Admiralty business district was cleared in a police swoop Thursday.
But ahead of the clampdown, volunteers spent a night painstakingly collecting and photographing an estimated 15,000 messages plastered on the wall, which ran alongside a staircase at the side of a government building.
Now the protesters, who were demanding fully free leadership elections in 2017, say they will reassemble the display both digitally and physically.
"The event is not over for us and the meaning and spirit of the wall is not lost. We will continue to find different avenues to spread the message which the wall represents," said software engineer Allen Tang, 31, who helped to dismantle the wall and is overseeing its digital rebirth.
An online version of the wall will go up early next year, said Tang, and will include more than 13GB of photos of the notes. Visitors to the website will also be able to add their own "electronic Post-Its".
The notes are being held in temporary storage and organisers also hope to recreate the wall in a physical exhibition at some point in the future.
Tang said options included displaying them in a warehouse.
The "Lennon Wall" was inspired by the original in Prague, which became a focal point for dissidents to voice their grievances with the ruling communist regime in the 1980s, often using images and lyrics inspired by John Lennon and the Beatles.
The mission to save it came as other art groups made a last-minute mercy dash to save works from the protest camp, which became a creative hub filled with sculptures, paintings, posters and banners.
"It was very difficult for us to start peeling the Post-Its off. Some of us just stood there for some time before actually starting the removal process," Tang told AFP.
By Thursday morning the wall had been reduced to a slab of empty grey concrete.
Instead, campaigners had spelt out the words "We are dreamers" in yellow, pink, blue and green sticky notes, a reference to lyrics from John Lennon's "Imagine".
Now even those have gone.
Campaigners working to preserve the protest artwork say local museums have refused to take it.
But a spokeswoman for Hong Kong's cultural department said it had "not received any formal request about collecting or archiving the creative objects and artworks created at the Occupy Central protests".
Hong Kong media tycoon resigns after arrest [Al Jazeera - 12/12/14]:
Hong Kong publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, an outspoken critic of Beijing, has stepped down as editor-in-chief of the popular Apple Daily newspaper after being arrested for refusing to leave a key pro-democracy protest site in the centre of the city.
Hong Kong police arrested nearly 250 activists on Thursday and cleared most of the main protest site near the Central business district, marking an end to more than two months of street demonstrations in the Chinese-controlled city.
Public broadcaster RTHK said on Friday all of those arrested, including Lai, had been released. Lai, a self-made millionaire, has been the main financial patron of the pro-democracy movement since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to Communist Party rulers in China, Reuters news agency reported.
Jimmy Lai was taken away around 5pm (on Thursday). Jimmy Lai also resigned as editor-in-chief of Apple Daily, and Next Media's Print Media CEO Ip Yut-kin will succeed (him)," a video clip shown on Apple Daily's website said.
Next Media Ltd publishes Next Magazine and the pro-democracy Apple Daily tabloid newspaper.
Lai has come under the scrutiny of Hong Kong's anti-graft agency this year.
In August, agency officers raided his home, and the following month he went to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). It is common for the agency to call in individuals for questioning as part of its investigations.
Appointments to the Federal Judiciary
Federal Attorney-General Media Release [11/12/14]:
Today I announce the appointment of a judge of the Federal Court of Australia and four judges to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
The Hon Justice James Edelman will fill the vacancy left on the retirement of the Hon Justice Peter Jacobson. He will be based in Brisbane.
Justice Edelman was born on the 9th of January 1974 and graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Economics in 1995 and a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours in 1996, and from Murdoch University with a Bachelor of Commerce in 1997. He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship in 1998 and obtained a Doctor of Philosophy in Law from Magdalen College, Oxford, in 2001. He was appointed a Professor of the Law of Obligations, Oxford, in 2008.
Justice Edelman, who has served as a judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia since 2011, will be a great asset to the Federal Court bench and I congratulate him on his appointment which will commence on 20 April 2015.
The following barristers have been appointed members of the Federal Circuit Court;
Mr Alexander (Sandy) Street SC, who will commence in the Sydney registry on 1 January 2015
Mr Salvatore Vasta, who will commence in the Brisbane registry on 1 January 2015
Mr Ian Newbrun, who will commence in the Sydney registry on 4 February 2015, and
Mr Justin Smith SC, who will commence in the Parramatta registry on 27 January 2015.
If we think you look shifty expect to be singled out for harassment and intimidation - and don't flinch - we might shoot you: Queensland Police
Shoot first and inquire afterwards, and if you make mistakes I will protect you.
Image: @QPSmedia [3/12/14]
Counter-terrorism law changes unnecessary, say top criminal lawyers: Changes to threshold from belief to suspicion ‘would allow police to be a little more trigger-happy’ [Guardian - 24/9/14]
There will be more armed police in public and pat-downs will become more frequent as part of a new state of "reduced tolerance" for suspicious behaviour in Queensland.
The Queensland Police Commissioner's warning comes after a "known terror suspect" was shot dead last night by police in Melbourne, as well as a number of counter-terrorism raids which took place south of Brisbane a fortnight ago.
Commissioner Ian Stewart said his officers would be nervous after last night's shooting and it was his duty to protect them, as well as the public.
"You will see officers regularly carrying their firearms more often than you would have seen in the past," he told 612 ABC Brisbane.
"It means when they pull people up or speak to people, they are probably going to ask people to submit to pat-down searches much more regularly.
"Our police are going to be noticeably alert and request people to be very compliant with their dealings with a lower tolerance to policing.
"Any little thing might be a key to how someone is about to react in a potentially bad way and our police will be on guard for those signs."
Commissioner Stewart said the hyped-up measures would not stop after the November G20 summit in Brisbane.
He again confirmed there had been no specific threat to Queenslanders or state assets.
Officers were also invited on Monday to apply to take their firearms home, however each application would be assessed individually.
"I'd be very sympathetic if there was a heightened risk for certain officers," he added.
Give police fascist powers and they will behave like fascists: I’m a cop. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t challenge me. [Washington Post - 19/8/14]
In 2003, US experts doubted key Iraq war claim: cable
A CIA cable disclosed on Thursday showed that U.S. counter terrorism officials in 2003 discounted reports that a leader of the Sept. 11 attacks met an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague just before the attacks, further undermining a Bush administration argument for the invasion of Iraq.
Senator Carl Levin released a newly declassified section of a March 11, 2003 cable that undercut administration statements that Mohammed Atta and Iraqi agent Ahmad al-Anian had met in the Czech capital in April 2001.
"[T]here is not one [U.S. counter terrorism] or FBI expert that has said they have evidence or 'know' that [Atta] was indeed [in Prague]. In fact the analysis has been quite the opposite," said the cable, made available by Levin, retiring chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had earlier linked Iraq with al Qaeda and international terrorism and, incorrectly, said it was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, justifying the March 20, 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Levin said a recent memoir published by Jiri Ruzek, head of Czech counterintelligence in 2001, described the story about Atta's Prague meeting as a single-source rumor and said the Bush administration pressured officials in Prague to confirm it.
Levin urged CIA Director John Brennan to release the entire March 2003 cable.
Some FBI officials have said evidence the U.S. authorities had indicated Atta was in Florida in early April and the FBI found no evidence that he traveled to Europe around that time, an official familiar with the matter said.
US Torture: Complicity and Accountability
American Civil Liberties Union:
During the Bush administration, many hundreds of people were tortured and abused by the CIA and Department of Defense, primarily in Afghanistan, Guantánamo, and Iraq, but also in other countries after unlawful rendition. Our government's embrace of torture shattered lives, shredded our nation's reputation in the world, and compromised our national security. Yet, to date, there has been little accountability for these wrongs.
In January 2009, shortly after entering office, President Obama took important steps to dismantle the torture program. But in the following years, his administration undermined that early promise by thwarting accountability for torture.
Accountability for torture is a moral, legal, and national security imperative.
With the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's summary of its landmark investigation into the CIA's use of torture, the United States has a critical opportunity to change course. By taking steps in the five key areas described below, the Obama administration can begin to redress the abuses perpetrated in our names and help ensure that the United States never tortures again.
Appoint a Special Prosecutor
The attorney general should appoint a special prosecutor with full authority to conduct an independent and complete examination of the previous administration's torture program, including the role played by the senior officials most responsible for it and by those who tried to cover up crimes.
Reform the CIA
By taking two key steps, Congress and the president can ensure that the CIA never again engages in torture or unlawful detention.
Provide Apology and Compensation
President Obama should publicly acknowledge and apologize to the victims of U.S. torture policies.
President Obama should formally honor the members of the military, the CIA, and other public servants who, when our nation went off course, stayed true to our most fundamental ideals.
The Obama administration should release still-secret records that would shed further light on the extent of U.S. government abuse, and on the responsibility of senior officials in ordering it.
Why a Criminal Investigation is Necessary
David Hicks speaks out for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks [VIDEO - May 2012]:
Torture victim David Hicks' first rally speech since his 7 years in Guantanamo concentration camp was a powerful and moving message of support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Hicks warns that his experience, of being forsaken by the Australian government and tortured by the US, could await Assange.
Government treatment of Manus detainees could be found negligent
Australian Lawyers Alliance Media Release [12/12/14]:
The Manus Island Report shows clearly that the Australian Government may have breached its duty of care to deceased detainee Reza Berati and could be found negligent for its treatment of asylum seekers detained on Manus Island, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
The report released yesterday by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, called on the Australian government to acknowledge its responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of individuals detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.
ALA spokesperson and Barrister Greg Barns said that the report’s finding that the violence, which resulted in the death of detainee Mr Berati, was ‘eminently foreseeable’ was significant as this concept is one of the core tenets of establishing negligence.
“The Manus Island report indicates that the Australian government is one step closer to being found negligent in the way it has treated asylum seekers on Manus Island,” Mr Barns said.
“The finding that the violence on Manus Island was ‘eminently foreseeable’ is significant, as this concept is one of the core tenets of establishing negligence.
“Foreseeability forms part of the essential legal tests required to prove negligence. Ultimately, it will be for the courts to establish whether the remaining legal tests for negligence have been met.”
“Significantly, the Committee has also stated that it considers that the duty of care responsibilities that the Australian government owes under domestic Australian law are a compelling reason for Australia to take full responsibility for the treatment of asylum seekers held at Manus Island.”
The Australian Lawyers Alliance submitted to the committee that Australia may have a non-delegable duty of care under common law to ensure the safety of asylum seekers at held at the centre.
“This contrasts with the position of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, who acknowledged to the committee that the nature or scope of a duty of care in the regional processing context, and whether it exists, is a complex question that normally involves judicial evaluation,” said Mr Barns.
“Clearly, the Committee is pointing to our own domestic protections at common law, and saying ‘watch your step’.”
Mr Barns said the Federal Government’s treatment of asylum seekers breached several international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and United Nations regulations on the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955).
“The fact that Manus Island is an offshore processing centre does not allow the Commonwealth to be able to wipe its hands of liability,” Mr Barns said.
The ALA’s submission to the inquiry highlighted its belief that the Australian government has a non-delegable duty of care existing at common law to those imprisoned in detention centres offshore; that the powers of the Australian government acknowledged within the original Agreement with Papua New Guinea indicate that Australia is the true authority bound by a common law duty of care owed to prisoners that are detained, and not PNG; and that the Australian government may be held vicariously liable for any failure to take reasonable care, undertaken via the use of services of contractors.
Mr Barns welcomed the strong recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee that the Australian Government acknowledge its responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of individuals detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.
“The Australian Lawyers Alliance welcomes the recommendations that the government take responsibility to protect, respect and fulfil the rights of detainees held on Manus Island,” Mr Barns said.
“We also welcome the recommendation that the government provide adequate medical assistance and independent legal advice to people affected, and that it pay compensation to the family of Reza Barati and others affected by the violence.”
“We look forward to the expeditious commitment by the Australian Government to put these recommendations into action as an immediate priority,” Mr Barns said.
“Regardless of whether the fault was that of the Commonwealth or of another party running the facility, the Commonwealth may be vicariously liable for any injury sustained by an asylum seeker while being detained,” Mr Barns said.
“The fact that no asylum seekers have been sent to Manus Island since February 2014 – the period in which Mr Berati was injured and killed – and that asylum seekers are now being moved from Manus Island to Nauru following this recent report of a young man left brain dead by departmental inaction, reveals that the Commonwealth is perhaps taking note of its tenuous legal position.”
Lazarus calls on Abbott to declare national emergency for Australia's rural and regional sector
Huge billboard advertising Californian mandarins - Red Hill, Brisbane
Palmer United Party Media Release [12/12/14]:
Palmer United Senator for Queensland and Leader of Palmer United in the Senate Glenn Lazarus has called on the Abbott Government to declare a national emergency for Australia’s rural and regional sector.
Australia is in the midst of severe drought. Much of Queensland is experiencing unprecedented drought and parts of Queensland have been in drought (the worst drought on record) for three years.
“Australian farmers are on their knees,” Senator Glenn Lazarus said.
“Parts of Queensland are so drought affected that the land has turned to dust and farmers are shooting their cattle to put them out of their misery.
“The drought is causing so much distress and suffering that farmers are committing suicide in high numbers.
“Banks are foreclosing on farms every week.
“Australia’s rural and regional sector has simply run out of water.
“Farmers can no longer afford to feed their stock let alone feed themselves.
“We are talking about generations of farmers who are good farming practitioners and good business people – who have simply been devastated by years of unforgiving weather.
“The people of Australia need to understand what is going on in the bush. Australians are dying. Decent hard working people – our farmers – are dying and being left to perish in horrific conditions.
“The Abbott Government must stop turning a blind eye.
“We need to stop the pain and suffering immediately.
“The Abbott Government needs to declare a national emergency for rural and regional Australia.
“The Abbott Government also needs to call on the banking and finance sector to put in place a nationwide moratorium on foreclosures for farmers affected by drought.
“By declaring a national emergency for our rural and regional sector, we can start to get help to our farmers who desperately need water, food, supplies, stock feed and other basics.
“We need to stop the carnage that is happening in the bush and help our farmers.
“I have also sought the assistance of the NRL to work with me to deliver a fundraising campaign to assist Australian farmers and I now call on every Australian to think of ideas to help our farmers through this crisis.
“Australians would be horrified to see what is happening in the bush.
“It is time for something to be done. The Abbott Government must act now.”
Bob Katter MP: ... "The Agricultural Minister tries to speak the speak, but certainly he doesn't walk the walk. He constantly reiterates the same message that he can't get agreement from the Liberals in cabinet. That is bull dust." ... [Sunshine Coast Daily - 11/12/14]
More anti rights arrests as Queensland Police and media airbrush another police shooting with talking points such as "suicide by cop". [CMG associates arrested over assault, Broadbeach - QPS Media - 12/12/14]
Drop ethics, hippocratic oath if you want $900 million contract to provide medical services in Australia's refugee concentration camps
Are the AMA, psychological/social workers associations and nurses unions warning members about possible future liability for crimes against humanity?
... Among the long list of complaints, the department said: "IHMS are seen to be risk averse and advocating for transferees beyond the services IHMS is contracted to deliver".
"The procedures being recommended were excessive and outside of the contract requirements," the report said.
The report also revealed the department was frustrated by IHMS medical advice to transfer detainees to the mainland.
IHMS often recommended transferring detainees to Australia, which "places the department in a difficult position as it is very difficult to reverse a medical recommendation once made".
"Discussion ensued on whether this is the result of IHMS advocating or being overly conservative."
To address the problem, the department said: "IHMS should recruit people who are able to follow the government requirements in the contract".
"IHMS need to ensure medical staff who do reviews are not against Offshore Processing Centres (OPCs)," the report said.
The department pointed to an example of a psychologist who "regularly deemed transferees were not fit to return to an OPC".
The Doctors Trial: The Medical Case of the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]:
On December 9, 1946, an American military tribunal opened criminal proceedings against 23 leading German physicians and administrators for their willing participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Australian media have a job to do - maintain the abusive status quo with disinformation, blather and old wives tales
Myths about Priestly Pedophilia [Catholic Education Resource Center]:
Correlation does not imply causation
... The celibate state of priests leads to pedophilia.
Celibacy bears no causal relation to any type of deviant sexual addiction including pedophilia. In fact, married men are just as likely as celibate priests to sexually abuse children (Jenkins, Priests and Pedophilia). In the general population, the majority of abusers are regressed heterosexual men who sexually abuse girls. Women are also found to be among those sexual abusers. While it's difficult to obtain accurate statistics on childhood sexual abuse, the characteristic patterns of repeat child sex offenders have been well described. The profiles of child molesters never include normal adults who become erotically attracted to children as a result of abstinence (Fred Berlin, "Compulsive Sexual Behaviors" in Addiction and Compulsive Behaviors [Boston: NCBC, 1998]; Patrick J. Carnes, "Sexual Compulsion: Challenge for Church Leaders" in Addiction and Compulsion; Dale O'Leary, "Homosexuality and Abuse").
Married clergy would make pedophilia and other forms of sexual misconduct go away.
Some people including a few vocal dissenting Catholics — are exploiting this crisis to draw attention to their own agendas. Some are demanding a married Catholic clergy in response to the scandal, as if marriage would make men stop hurting children. This flies in the face of the aforementioned statistic that married men are just as likely to abuse children as celibate priests (Jenkins, Pedophilia and Priests).
Since neither being Catholic nor being celibate predisposes a person to develop pedophilia, a married clergy wouldn't solve the problem ("Doctors call for pedophilia research," The Hartford Currant, March 23). One has only to look at similar crises in other denominations and professions to see this.
The plain fact is, healthy heterosexual men have never been known to develop erotic attractions to children as a result of abstinence.
Man dies after wall collapses on him in Grasstree underground coal mine in central Queensland
A man has been crushed to death under a wall which collapsed on him in an underground mine in central Queensland.
Police say the 45-year-old miner was pressure grouting a wall on an underground roadway when part of the wall came away and struck him in the Anglo American Grasstree underground coal mine near Middlemount, north-west of Rockhampton, about 11pm (AEST).
He was given medical attention at the scene and brought to the surface where he was pronounced dead by paramedics.
A Department of Natural Resources and Mines spokesman said the mine was evacuated and all operations at the mine have been suspended by Anglo American until further notice.
"Two senior mines inspectors and an investigator will be at the mine this morning to begin their investigation," the spokesman said.
"The investigation report will be provided to the coroner who will determine cause of death."
It is the second workplace death in the Grasstree mine this year.
An initial investigation by the Mines Inspectorate found in May, electrician Paul McGuire may have been overcome by inert gas in a restricted area.
Spectacular train crash near Coppabella cleared [Brisbane Times - 12/12/14]:
A derailed train blocking the Goonyella coal line was removed on Tuesday.
The empty, driverless coal train derailed near Coppabella, blocking inbound and outbound tracks.
The remotely-run train had no crew on board and the empty wagons and the engine ended up on their sides across the tracks.
An Aurizon representative said the crash occurred about 2pm on Friday.
Feel safe Queensland?
OTT police presence/bogus "drink safe" precinct working well on the Gold Coast.
Nine MSN [12/12/14]:
A police officer is in hospital after being knocked out during a vicious brawl in Surfers Paradise early this morning.
The officer was injured when he tried to break up a fight between six men outside a nightclub on Orchid Avenue at 1.45am.
He was taken to the Gold Coast University Hospital with head injuries.
Three men have been arrested and will face court this morning.
A 22-year-old Western Australian man was charged with serious assault, public nuisance in licensed premises and obstructing police.
Another WA man, 21, was charged with assaulting police, public nuisance and being drunk and disorderly.
A 20-year-old man from Logan Central in Brisbane's south has been charged with obstructing police.
Lawrence Gaskell has pleaded not guilty to murdering Katarina Gaskell during a violent argument at their home in Brisbane's north on October 17, 2011. [Yahoo – 11/12/14]:
... He said he had lost count of how many times he had hit her.
He rang 000 after he saw he had shattered her skull and blood was seeping out.
Mrs Gaskell died in hospital the next day. ...
Ireland recognises Palestine as a state as EU vote looms
Al Akhbar [11/12/14]:
Irish lawmakers urged their government Wednesday to recognize Palestine as a state in a symbolic motion that sailed through parliament unopposed, the latest in a series of similar measures across Europe as the EU parliament holds a crucial vote on Palestine next week.
The Irish move came a day before the Danish parliament gears up to vote on Thursday to recognize Palestine as well.
The non-binding motion agreed by lawmakers in Dublin called on the government to "officially recognize the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital, as established in UN resolutions."
This would be "a further positive contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," it added.
The government is not bound to follow the motion but Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said Ireland supported early recognition of a Palestinian state "in principle."
"We have always supported a viable two-state solution and will continue to support that in any manner and by any means," Flanagan told parliament.
Despite being proposed by the opposition Sinn Fein party, the motion had cross-party support, dispensing the need for a vote. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who was refused entry to Gaza by Israel during a visit to the region last week, said the motion was about inspiring hope.
"We must stand with the Palestinian and Israeli citizens who want peace - who are taking risks for peace. The passing of this motion is an important contribution to this," Adams said.
The motion also called on the Irish government to do everything it could internationally to secure "an inclusive and viable peace process."
Israeli forces shoot 14-year-old Palestinian in the head [Al Akhbar – 10/12/14]
A suicide bomber has struck an Afghan army bus carrying soldiers east of the capital, Kabul, killing at least six troops, officials have said. ... [Al Jazeera - 11/12/14]
Explosion reported near Bagram air base in Parwan [Khaama – 11/12/14]
US forces entered Iraq overland under the pretext of training ground security forces
On Tuesday, al-Saddekon parliamentary bloc considered that the increase in the number of trainers and American military advisors in Iraq is exaggerated, noting that US forces entered Iraq overland under the pretext of training security forces.
Bloc Chairman Hassan Salem said in an interview for IraqiNews.com, “The number of the American military trainees and consultants in Iraq exceeded 3 thousand soldiers,” noting that, “The US remarks to send 1,500 foreign troops to train security forces are rejected; it is considered as an occupation.”
Salem added that, “Increasing the number of trainers and military advisers is exaggerated; we are not in need of this huge number,” adding that, “The United States did not provide anything for Iraq, neither through air strikes nor by increasing the number of advisors.”
He stressed that, “US forces entered Iraq overland under the pretext of security training,” adding that, “Iraqis are able to achieve victories and eliminate ISIS gangs and do not need US or foreign forces.”
25 killed, wounded in mortar shell attack and tank explosion in Samarra [IraqiNews.com – 10/12/14]
On Human Rights Day, UN official calls for Member States to eradicate torture
UN Media Release [10/12/14]:
Governments must ramp up their efforts in eradicating the practice of torture and compensate the victims of this “most vicious of crimes,” the top United Nations human rights official has urged, as he marked the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention against Torture.
In a press statement issued today following the release of two “ground-breaking” reports – one from the United States and another from Brazil – on the use of torture by both Governments, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called on all Member States “to act unequivocally” in stamping out the practice.
“Today is not only Human Rights Day,” Mr. Zeid said, as he recalled the UN-backed observance commemorating the date on which the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “it is also the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention against Torture on 10 December 1984.”
“Yet, as yesterday’s US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report shows, torture is still taking place in quite a few of the 156 countries that have ratified the Convention against Torture and have domestic legislation making it illegal.”
The UN rights chief welcomed publication of both the US Senate Select Committee’s summary report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Detention and Interrogation Program, as well as the report of Brazil’s National Truth Commission, which documents extensive use of torture among other gross and systematic human rights violations committed over a 42-year period, including the 1964-85 military dictatorship.
He noted, however, that the release of both reports, and the US one in particular, provided “a very stark reminder” that not only was the practice of torture still current, much more needed to be done to abolish it completely.
“Few countries will admit that their state apparatus has been practising torture, and many continue shamelessly to deny it – even when it is well documented by international human rights Treaty Bodies, and the scars are all too visible on the victims who manage to escape,” stated Mr. Zeid, who commended the Governments of Brazil and the United States for enabling the reports’ release.
He admitted that while it would take time to fully analyse the contents of the “landmark” reports, the human rights community could “still draw some stark conclusions about the failures to eradicate this serious international crime, for which there should be no statute of limitations and no impunity.”
In light of the report’s revelations, Mr. Zeid also wondered how both States would fulfil their obligation to ensure accountability for the crimes that have been committed, adding that those who ordered, enabled or committed torture “cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency.”
International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes.
The US is legally obliged, by international law, to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.
“We have time to consider this aspect as we fully digest the implications of these two ground-breaking reports,” he continued.
“At the same time we must recognize the need for immediate bold action to eradicate this most vicious of crimes. And victims of torture, disappearance, extrajudicial executions, or arbitrary or unlawful detention must be speedily and adequately compensated for the terrible experiences they have suffered at the hands of employees of the State.”
... Some U.S. allies either condemned the CIA's methods or played down any involvement, fearing embarrassment or legal liability for any role in the CIA's "enhanced interrogations" during the administration of former President George W. Bush.
"The CIA's practice of torture is gruesome," German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild. "Everybody involved must be legally prosecuted." ... [Reuters - 10/12/14]
Defusing the Ticking Bomb Scenario: Why we must say No to torture, always [The Association for the Prevention of Torture - 2007]
Supreme Court told of bizarre torture, murder
A Queensland man and his father allegedly poured honey on a man's genitals to attract ants before killing him over a drug dispute, a court has heard.
Matthew Leslie Armitage, 22, and his father Stephen John Armitage, 46, of Cooloola Cove, are accused of abducting Shaun Barker from a Broadbeach service station and torturing him for several days in December 2013.
Grisly details of what the pair and a third man allegedly inflicted on Barker in the days before they allegedly killed him were detailed during Matthew Armitage's bail hearing in the Supreme Court in Brisbane on Thursday.
All three are charged with murder, misconduct with a corpse, torture and deprivation of liberty.
The court was told Barker endured days of torture, including being zip-tied to a tree and having honey poured over his genitals to attract ants.
He was also allegedly held prisoner inside an esky and denied water.
"It was also alleged (Mr Barker) was forced to consume the drug fantasy and he was subjected to other assaults before his body was found," Justice David Boddice said.
Mr Barker was allegedly involved in the production of illicit drugs with his accused killers.
Justice Boddice denied Armitage bail, saying he considered him a flight risk because he faced mandatory life imprisonment if convicted.
He also said he was concerned Armitage could pose a risk to witnesses given his father had allegedly threatened a witness.
"I'm satisfied that there's a risk that the applicant, if released on bail, could interfere with witnesses or endanger a person's safety," he said.
Barker was reported missing by his family on January 14.
The 33-year-old's burnt skeletal remains were found in a state forest at Tin Can Bay, north of Brisbane, in April.
Queensland Police shoot man in Brisbane
Queensland Police have shot a man who allegedly ran at officers with a samurai sword during a domestic dispute in Ashgrove, in Brisbane's north-west.
Police were called to the dispute at Glenlyon Drive and found a man threatening his partner with a sword.
They opened fire at about 8:30pm, when the man allegedly ran at officers with the sword.
The ABC understands police fired six shots and hit the man in the chest and stomach regions.
Witnesses said they heard police telling the man to "drop the knife" before hearing gunshots.
In a statement, police said the man, who is believed to be in his 40s, had been taken to hospital and was in a serious condition.
The Ethical Standards Command has begun investigating the incident, the statement said.
In Queensland, police have shot and killed three people over recent weeks, with six police shootings in the state since April.
Queensland police officers set to face court over rape allegation [The Age – 11/12/14]
Media banned from Queensland police rape case [Yahoo – 11/12/14]
Police investigate traffic crash, Mudgeeraba
QPS Media [11/12/14]:
Police are investigating a crash where a vehicle was driven into a house at Mudgeeraba overnight.
Around 9.05pm police were called to Hinterland Drive residence after the male driver of a silver Holden Commodore lost control of the vehicle which mounted the footpath, went through a gate, struck a Toyota Rav four wheel drive parked in the driveway before crashing into three metal supports of the high set house.
The vehicle stopped with the house resting on the front end of the vehicle.
The 19-year-old male driver and his two 19-year-old male passengers were not injured in the crash.
The 36-year-old female occupant of the house was not injured as a result of the incident.
Anyone who may have any information to assist police with how the crash occurred is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Investigations are continuing.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Attempted robbery with violence, Everton Park
QPS Media [10/12/14]:
Police are investigating following the assault and attempted robbery of a 48-year-old woman in Everton Park this morning.
Just after 7.00am, the woman was walking along South Pine Road when a stolen vehicle pulled up beside her. A man jumped out of the car, grabbing hold of the woman’s handbag.
A struggle followed, during which the man pulled the woman to the ground, and assaulted her.
When witnesses arrived the man got back into the car and fled the scene.
The woman received grazes.
Police are looking for a stolen, 2000 model White Honda Odyssey, Queensland registration 919-TZO.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Anti rights arrests, Gympie [QPS Media – 10/12/14]
Army reservist one man tree-sitting protest in South West
WA Today [11/12/14]:
An army reservist is conducting a one-man tree-sit in the Helms Forest in Nannup to protest against a Barnett government logging agency's plans to clear 380 hectares of pristine bushland.
Fairfax Media revealed on Tuesday that the Forest Products Commission was planning to log hundreds of hectares of jarrah and marri forest, which is the release site for threatened Carnaby's, Baudin's and Red-tailed black cockatoos.
The birds are bred and rehabilitated at the neighbouring Jamarri Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre.
Protestors had managed to stop the logging on Tuesday after a man chained himself to a bulldozer. He was later arrested by police.
Forest activist Naomi Godden said army reservist, Aaron, was sitting 20 metres above the ground, dangling on a bed frame.
She said he was decked out in his army uniform and had rigged up rope over a tree limb connected to machinery, making it inoperable.
Ms Godden said he planned to stay up the tree as long as possible.
"Helms Forest is an ancient and fragile ecosystem that provides habitat for several threatened species, including the black red-tailed cockatoo," she said.
"The logging of native state forest is an outdated and destructive industry, and is heavily subsidized by the state government.
"South West forests are ecologically, spiritually and socially significant, and we oppose the logging of our jarrah and marri for pitiful net income.
"We prefer our forest untouched than as firewood, woodchips and charcoal".
Ms Godden said protestors intended to stay in Helms until the forest was protected.
In 2012 the Forest Alliance managed to save more than 200ha of old growth forest from the chainsaws.
Old growth forest has not been available for logging in WA since 2001.
Modi, Putin discuss defence, energy
The Hindu [11/12/14]:
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to further boost cooperation between the two strategic partners in crucial sectors like defence, energy and trade at a time when Russian economy was facing Western sanctions.
Mr. Putin, who arrived here on Wednesday night, is likely to push for enhancing supply of military hardware to India as well as expansion of bilateral economic engagement in a range of areas.
It is the first annual summit meeting between Mr. Putin and Mr. Modi. The two leaders had met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil in July and during the G-20 summit in Australia last month.
“Times have changed, our friendship has not. Now, we want to take this relation to the next level & this visit is a step in that direction,” Modi tweeted last night.
The talks at the highest level have been taking place since 2000 alternately in Moscow and New Delhi.
“The bond between the people of Russia & India is very strong. Our nations have stood by each other through thick and thin,” the Prime Minister said in another tweet.
In his talks with Mr. Modi, both in restricted and delegation level formats, Mr. Putin is likely to seek deeper economic engagement with India with an aim to minimise impact of sanctions against Russia by the US and its Western allies over the Ukraine issue.
India, which is the third largest oil importer after the US and China — has been pushing for greater involvement in major gas and oil exploration projects in Russia and both the leaders are set to discuss the issue.
Russia is one of the top oil producers globally and has huge reserves of natural gas.
India’s exports, particularly food items, to Russia have gone up since sanctions were imposed against that country by Western nations for its interventions in the crisis in Ukraine.
India has been maintaining that it cannot be party to any economic sanctions against Russia.
Both the leaders are likely to discuss improving supply of rough diamonds by Russia to India. Russia is the world’s top producer of rough diamonds and India is one of its largest importers.
Chernobyl's illegal tours stopped
The site of the world's worst nuclear accident attracts up to 10,000 tourists a year who pay the equivalent of about £100 each for the privilege of visiting Chernobyl's infamous reactor number four and touring the nearby ghost town of Pripyat on a day trip.
But the tours have been suspended after Ukrainian prosecutors investigated the unusual tour business and ruled it was illegal, saying it was unclear who was receiving the takings and how the money was being spent.
"Trips organised through tour operators to the exclusion zone have been stopped," Ukraine's emergencies ministry, which was responsible for overseeing the tour business, said in a statement.
The ministry insisted that the tours were totally legal however and is contesting their closure through the courts. Ukrainian prosecutors say they still have outstanding questions though.
"We urge the ministry to inform the government of every dollar earned on these trips," a spokesman for the prosecutor general's office told Russia's RT TV station. "We know a lot of money has been made but we have no idea whose pockets it has ended up in. Why not put the money into the budget and use it to solve the zone's problems?"
Chernobyl's fourth reactor exploded on April 26 1986 when a "routine experiment" went wrong sending a plume of radiation equivalent to 400 Hiroshimas into the night sky.
Many of the 176 staff on duty that night were killed instantly; others would die later in hospital. The reactor core burned for 10 days, and the resultant pollutants – including plutonium isotopes with a half-life of 24,360 years – drifted around the world, raining toxicity down on faraway places such as the lakes of Japan and the glens of Scotland.
The reactor-core eventually had to be sealed with a cement mixture, dropped from the air, and a giant steel and concrete sarcophagus erected over it to contain the radiation.
In recent years parts of the site deemed safe for brief trips have become an unlikely tourist attraction. The most arresting "attraction" is not the ruined plant, however, but the ghost town of Pripyat nearby. Visitors get to walk through the debris-strewn corridors of its Palace of Culture, admire its crumbling Olympic-sized swimming pool, and wander through the eerily empty classrooms of one of its biggest schools.
Hundreds of discarded gas masks litter the floor of the school canteen, Soviet propaganda continues to hang on classroom walls, and children's dolls are scattered about, left where their young owners dropped them in a hurry a quarter of a century ago.
Bangladesh oil spill threatens rare dolphins in Sundarbans region
Straits Times [11/12/14]:
Bangladesh officials warned Thursday that an oil spill from a crashed tanker is threatening endangered dolphins and other wildlife in the massive Sundarbans mangrove region, branding the leak an ecological "catastrophe".
The tanker carrying an estimated 350,000 litres of oil collided on Tuesday with another vessel and partly sank in the Sundarbans' Shela river, home to rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins.
Although officials are unsure how much oil has spilled, they warned the slick has spread to another river as well as a network of canals in the vast Sundarbans delta.
"The oil spill has spread over a 60 km-long area in the Shela and Passur rivers," Amir Hossain, chief forest official of the Sundarbans, told AFP.
Police have set up an aisle, lined by media, down which they carry those they arrest like a surreal reality tv show
Image: @limlouisa [11/12/14]
Police in Hong Kong swooped on the city's main pro-democracy site Thursday, clearing away tents and barricades after more than two months of rallies, and issuing an ultimatum to a hardcore of protesters who have refused to budge. ... [Channel News Asia - 11/12/14]
Uniting Church condemns strip searching of Christian protesters
Revive Magazine [11/12/14]:
The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has condemned WA Police for strip searching Christian asylum-seeker advocates involved in a protest in Perth yesterday.
Several ministers of religion and lay workers including two from the UCA were detained by police after a prayer vigil at Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s office in Subiaco.
The protesters from the group Love Makes a Way were part of a national day of action in MPs’ offices calling for all children in immigration detention to be released into the community.
After their arrest, one of the protesters involved says police at the Perth Watch House told them they would be forcibly stripped and searched for weapons or drugs if they refused a strip search order before being placed in a holding cell. A number of those searched were visibly distressed.
Moderator of the UCA Synod of Western Australia Rev Steve Francis says he’s appalled at the protesters’ treatment.
“WA Police have deliberately humiliated people engaged in a peaceful act of civil disobedience,” said Steve.
“Strip searching is an outrageous and offensive response to Christian concern for the vulnerable, and I will be seeking an urgent explanation from the WA Police Commissioner.”
Steve says pastoral care is being offered to church members who were detained.
The Perth group had refused to end their vigil in Ms Bishop’s office until they received assurances that 25 babies born in Australia to asylum seeker families would not be transferred to the Nauru detention centre.
The President of the Uniting Church in Australia, Rev Professor Andrew Dutney, has also condemned WA police behaviour and re-stated the Church’s long-standing opposition to offshore processing.
“No Australian engaged in peaceful, non-violent protest should be subjected to this kind of treatment,” said Andrew.
“This kind of punitive treatment is a reflection of the shameful state to which Australian refugee policy has now sunk, in which the Government of the day thinks it is acceptable to send mothers and babies to a place where they will be at significant risk of physical and mental harm and even abuse.”
Amendments to the Migration Act passed by the Senate last week give unprecedented powers to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, placing the Minister’s decisions out of reach of the courts and giving him permission to act contrary to international law.
Andrew has described their passage as “a day of great moral failure for Australia.”
Australia’s focus on deterrence challenged in global forum
Refugee Council of Australia Media Release [11/12/14]:
The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) challenged the Australian Government’s promotion of its “regional deterrence network” as governments, NGOs and international bodies gathered in Geneva overnight for a global dialogue on protection at sea.
Speaking in the opening plenary of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ Dialogue on Protection Challenges, RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said millions of Australians were distressed by the heartlessness of Australian policy, breaches of international law, the extent and cost of protracted detention and the suffering inflicted on victims of persecution.
Mr Power was responding to an earlier statement by the head of Australia’s delegation at the meeting, Rear Admiral Michael Noonan, who used a forum devoted principally to the protection of vulnerable refugees and migrants travelling by sea to promote the Australian Government’s claims about its success in deterrence of asylum seekers.
“In 2013, the Australian Government introduced a broad range of measures designed to deny people smugglers from having a product to sell while ensuring that those who were owed protection received it,” the Australian Government statement said.
“This has included putting in place a regional deterrence network with our partners, preventing smugglers using our region as a transit point, and a robust returns process for those found not to be in need of protection. This is fundamental to the integrity of protection systems.”
In response, Mr Power said he was sad that Australia was now leading the world among Refugee Convention signatory states in the harshness of its responses to people fleeing persecution.
“The Australian Government says repeatedly that it is stopping boats because of its concern about the loss of life at sea,” Mr Power said.
“There is scant evidence that the Australian Government cares about the lives of those same people in any other context.
“Where is the evidence of concern about Rohingya people being oppressed in Myanmar, the human rights crisis in Sri Lanka, the lack of safety in north-west Pakistan for many Afghan refugees, the mistreatment of urban refugees in Thailand and Malaysia or the desperation of asylum seekers who are seeking admission to detention centres in Indonesia in order to avoid starvation?”
Mr Power said the Australian representative had mentioned that his Government was shifting from a regional cooperation framework to a regional deterrence network.
“If replicated widely around the world, this approach would greatly exacerbate an already complex series of problems.”
Earlier, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, spoke to the 300 delegates gathered for the dialogue, encouraging them to see the humanity of those travelling by sea to seek safety.
“Few things cause me more anguish than seeing refugees and asylum seekers, who have already lost everything to conflict and war, risk their lives at the hands of ruthless smugglers and traffickers, suffering dramatic violations of their human rights – all because they have no other way of accessing safety,” Mr Guterres said.
“A comprehensive approach to the problem at sea must therefore also include safe alternative means of entry.
“At a time when an unprecedented number of people are forced to flee conflict and persecution across the world, barring them from accessing protection further afield is the opposite of what is needed.”
Mr Al Hussein criticised the negative typecasting of migrants using a belligerent vocabulary as invasive, “flooding”, “swamping”, “jumping the queue” and “threatening our way of life”.
“Regardless of status, no-one should be subjected to prolonged or arbitrary detention, discriminatory decision-making, unlawful profiling or disproportionate interference with the right to privacy,” Mr Al Hussein said.
“The absolute prohibition on refoulement must be upheld.
“But is this enough? From the Mediterranean to the Pacific and Indian Oceans – as well as in the Middle East, the Americas and beyond – migrant crises cry out urgently for rational and coordinated action. Unilateral attempts to close borders are almost certainly futile, and the response cannot just lie in aggressive, and often counterproductive, anti-smuggling plans.
“The siege mentality fanned by an increasing number of populist leaders is disgraceful and dishonest, and must end. When migrants are welcomed and fully integrated into society, they can be a tremendous asset.”
The speeches of Rear Admiral Michael Noonan and Paul Power of RCOA are attached.
... The time-honored tradition of rescue at sea enshrined in international law is in jeopardy. Important conventions establish the obligation of a ship's captain to render assistance to people in distress at sea and of States to coordinate and cooperate to deliver those rescued at sea to a place of safety within a reasonable time. These obligations apply regardless of the migration status of the persons in distress at sea. ... [UNHCR Media Release - 10/12/14]
Close the Manus refugee death camp
Damning Manus Island report: government failure led to Reza Barati tragedy [Greens Media Release – 11/12/14]:
The final report from a Senate inquiry into the violence at the Manus Island detention centre in February has slammed the government for failing to protect asylum seekers that were in its care.
"This damning report clearly shows that the Abbott government has ultimate responsibility for the centre and for the people held there," Senator Hanson-Young said.
"The committee has said that the victims of this attack deserve to be compensated. It's now up to the government to do the right thing.
"The Immigration Minister can't keep blaming the PNG government for what happened that night. The fact is the buck stops with him and he's responsible for everything that goes on in the centre.
"We know now that Reza Barati's death was entirely preventable. The government was warned repeatedly that the situation there was deteriorating and that security provisions were inadequate. The government's inaction led to this tragedy and they must be held accountable.
"The mountain of evidence submitted to this inquiry all points to one undeniable fact; the Manus Island centre is untenable and must be closed down now.
"The severe lack of training for Manus Island workers contributed directly to the tragic results of the attack.
"It's clear that the media and independent observers like the UN must be given full and free access to the centre. The government should heed the committee's recommendations and let them in.
"Scott Morrison's behaviour following the brutal attack on the centre was reprehensible. He lied to the Australian people and blamed the victims themselves."
Burmese refugee climbs down off Broadmeadows detention centre roof
The Age [11/12/14]:
A stand-off with a refugee from Myanmar who was threatening to jump from the roof of an immigration detention centre in Melbourne's north has ended.
The 37-year old climbed down after spending 24 hours on the roof at the Broadmeadows detention centre.
The man - who has been held in detention more than four years after a secret assessment by security agency ASIO - had remained on the roof during overnight rain after threatening self-harm on Wednesday.
He is not believed to have made any demands but police held fears for his safety and laid mattresses at the foot of the building.
He is not permitted to know why ASIO has deemed him a threat to Australia, or make any legal appeal.
Fairfax Media has chosen not to name the man.
Each of the refugees with adverse assessments has been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution and cannot be returned home. However, they have all been refused visas to live in Australia.
Most of the group are Tamils who fled the civil war in Sri Lanka, but there are also a handful of Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar.
No other country has been willing to offer them settlement.
But Attorney-General George Brandis decided on Thursday to extend an independent review of their cases by a former Federal Court judge, relenting from his previous opposition to reviews of ASIO findings.
Police had sent negotiators and search and rescue officers to the Broadmeadows detention centre to talk the man down.
Police media were waiting for further details on Thursday afternoon.
Several of the refugees with negative assessments took part in a hunger strike at the centre in April 2013, and there have been several suicide attempts among the group.
For help or information, call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636.
No legal redress for suspended Nauru MPs
Five opposition MPs in Nauru have lost their bid to overturn a decision by the government to suspend them from parliament.
3 of the MPs were banned in May and another two, including a former president, were suspended in June after they campaigned in support of their colleagues.
The suspensions had been justified on the grounds that the MPs, by criticising controversial government moves such as the removal of the then resident magistrate and chief justice, had harmed the international reputation of Nauru.
One of the MPs, former justice minister Mathew Batsiua, says the Supreme Court has dismissed their appeal that parliament had behaved unlawfully in suspending them.
"I guess the gist of their thinking is that they do not want to interfere in the procedures of parliament and so whether or not they have jurisdiction and they believe, as conveyed in their decision, that they do not have jurisdiction."
... It is the committee's view that, by giving the impression that events primarily occurred outside the centre, and that PNG police were not involved in the violence that occurred in the centre, the Minister sought to unfairly apportion blame to the asylum seekers themselves for the violence that was done to them on the night of 17 February 2014. The Minister was clearly selective in the facts he chose to use in his initial statements on the incident, and should have more quickly acknowledged that the violence occurred inside the centre. The Minister also failed to correct his initial statements with regards to the involvement of PNG police, despite clear evidence from quite soon after the events that they had entered the centre and been involved in the violence that occurred. At the very least, the Minister should have exercised greater care while events were still unclear before apportioning blame. ...
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Recommendations re "Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014" [December 2014]:
8.26 The committee recommends that the Australian Government ensure an adequate and effective investigation into the criminal assaults perpetrated against individuals detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre during the events of 16 to 18 February 2014, including by assisting the Papua New Guinea authorities in any ongoing investigations and facilitating the taking of witness testimony from individuals present at the incident who are now in Australian territory.
8.35 The committee recommends that the Australian Government acknowledge its responsibility to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of individuals detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.
8.39 The committee recommends that, in accordance with the right to an effective remedy and right to health in international human rights law, the Australian Government:
• acknowledge and take responsibility for violations of human rights in relation to the incident at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014; and
• provide compensation to those who have suffered human rights violations, including to Mr Reza Barati's family and to asylum seekers who were injured during the incident.
8.40 The committee recommends that the Australian Government ensure that all asylum seekers injured in the violence at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre from 16 to 18 February 2014 receive adequate professional assistance, including medical treatment, full rehabilitation and mental health services, as well as independent legal advice.
8.49 The committee recommends that, in the interests of transparency and accountability, the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea take measures to facilitate appropriate access to the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, including:
• allowing United Nations representatives full access to the centre and transferees;
• permitting qualified lawyers, including lawyers certified to practice in Australia, access to the centre in order to meet with transferees and provide legal assistance;
• allowing the Australian Human Rights Commission to regularly inspect the centre and meet with centre staff and transferees; and
• permitting journalists to visit the centre and speak freely with centre staff and transferees.
8.52 The committee recommends that Transfield Services and the Australian Government ensure that service provider staff employed at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre be provided with sufficient workplace training to perform their roles, in line with the standards applicable to employees working in detention environments in Australia, and accounting for the particular difficulties associated with working in remote conditions.
1.8 On account of the committee's inability to make a site visit to the centre under its own powers, the committee sought the support and assistance of the Commonwealth Government to do so.
On 28 April 2014, the committee wrote to the Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, as well as the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, seeking the government's approval and assistance.
1.9 The committee did not receive any response.
4.70 In specific evidence about actual incidents of encouragement to return home, a former employee of Playfair suggested that staff from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) were 'speaking to transferees, trying to convince them of the benefits of returning home'.
4.71 In contrast, government representatives re-confirmed their view that any returns from Manus Island RPC were strictly voluntary. For example Lieutenant General Campbell stated that '[i]t is really important to note these are voluntary returns'.
4.72 In terms of the number of returns from the Manus Island RPC, the department provided information that:
As at 1 August 2014, 203 transferees have been voluntarily returned from an Offshore Processing Centre (OPC) and 174 transferees from the Manus OPC since 18 February 2014 with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
6.57 Other evidence presented to the committee contested the claim that no individuals involved in assaults on asylum seekers were now employed at the centre.
Humanitarian Research Partners (HRP) contended that 'at least two of the alleged 17 February assailants are now back working in the centre and terrifying their victims by their mere presence'.
Mr Ben Pynt, Director of Human Rights Advocacy at HRP, told the committee that asylum seekers at the centre had reported to him on multiple occasions that perpetrators were still working at the centre.
Mr Pynt expanded:
[The transferees] do not feel that they are being adequately protected by the guards that are employed at the centre. In fact, they feel threatened by a number of the guards at the centre. I know of one story that chilled me to the bone. An asylum seeker contacted me shortly after he had been to medical. He was in Mike compound. From Mike compound you get in the back of a ute and they take you through to IHMS, because you are not meant to walk through. He got into the ute, screamed, and got out of the ute, because the person driving the ute was one of the people who attacked him. This is happening all the time. The mental harm that is created simply by having the attackers remain at the centre is unbelievable and unconscionable.
Miss Judge [who worked on Manus Island] continued:
The attacks on asylum seekers [in February 2014] were not unpredictable and unforeseen. The attacks were not due to asylum seekers insulting PNG nationals in February or asylum seekers feeling discontent with their processing time frames. The attacks were due to the entire system. The attacks were due to the lack of due care for asylum seekers' safety and wellbeing, the acceptance by staff that PNG was just a dangerous place and that there was nothing we could do to change that. With reports going unheard and incidents being covered up, with no-one really to report to and the threat of danger being from outside, I am unsure of how anyone can guarantee the asylum seekers' safety. Regardless of how high fences are built around the centre, how many CCTV cameras are installed or how many extra guards are employed, I do not believe anything can change the fact that the key threat to the asylum seekers safety is, in fact, simply being detained on Manus Island.
The Senate will email you the Manus Report.
Read it for yourself.
The corrupt, victim blaming Australian media are misrepresenting it already because their job is to keep the refugee death camps open.
Secretariat of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee: Senate (02) 6277 3560 or firstname.lastname@example.org
G4S "riot" propaganda was roundly dismissed during the inquiry.
This was a brutal attack, not a “riot”: Refugee Action Collective: Manus Island Fact Sheet
Court fines defiant church leaders over asylum protest in Richard Marles' Geelong office [The Age – 11/12/14]
12 December 2014