Australia’s PM Learns He’s Not Above World Law

March 7th, 2024 - by Margaret Reynolds / Pearls and Irritations & Birchgrove Legal

Shock as Australian PM Learns He
Is Not Above International Genocide Law
Margaret Reynolds / Pearls and Irritations

(March 7, 2024) — Prime Ministers are too often monopolised by people telling them what they want to hear. Most political advisers can’t see beyond the latest opinion poll and the Australian bureaucracy has become equally reluctant to offer frank and fearless advice. It appears that the Attorney General, Defence and Foreign Affairs and Trade Departments have each failed to alert the Prime Minister and his government to the risks inherent in ignoring international law when responding to the Gaza crisis.

However, many members of Australian civil society have indeed urged the Federal Government to act strongly to uphold humanitarian standards and avoid crimes against humanity They have demanded the Federal Government restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and ban arms sales to Israel. More than 100 non-government organisations have communicated their alarm that Australia could in any way be contributing to the ongoing atrocities being inflicted on the Palestinians.

Since January 27th, many Australians have anticipated a public official response to the International Court of Justice interim ruling that a case of genocide against Israel is plausible Yet this weight of urgent correspondence and advocacy has failed to alert the Prime Minister’s staff to Australia’s responsibilities as a signatory of the Genocide Convention.

Today more than 100 Australian lawyers endorsed the referral of Anthony Albanese, together with other members of his government and the Opposition leader, Peter Dutton to the International Criminal Court as Accessory to Genocide in Gaza alleging political and material support to the Israel government and military over the past five months.

The 92-page document sets down specific ways in which this allegation can be upheld.

•  Freezing of funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency amid a humanitarian crisis

•  Providing military aid and approving defence exports to Israel

•  Ambiguously deploying an Australian military contingent to the region where its location and exact role have not been disclosed

•  Permitting Australians to travel to Israel to join the Israeli Defence Force and take part in its attacks on Gaza.

In response, the Prime Minister has dismissed the referral to the International Criminal Court as “lacking credibility” and it is unsurprising he would go into a defensive denial mode. However, it would be a brave leader who did not now demand detailed briefings on these allegations from those departments that have failed to respond to the International Court of Justice genocide warning. Furthermore, the Prime Minister would be wise to seek independent advice from one of several influential Australians who have significant expertise in the field of international humanitarian law.

Regardless of the long-term future of this and comparable allegations against other western leaders, the Australian Government has been given the chance to review its commitment to international law. It can continue to ignore calls for transparency and Australian independence in foreign policy, or it can start to seriously examine why the allegations of complicity have been made.

There is no doubt that many nations are much more actively concerned about the charge of genocide brought against Israel by the South African government. In February more than fifty countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Fiji, Japan, Great Britain and Ireland sent official legal delegations to the Hague to present their nations opinions to the International Court of Justice., but Australia was not represented.

In contrast, the Australian Government has avoided any detailed public response to its responsibilities as a signatory to the Genocide Convention. Indeed, it has recently twice closed down parliamentary debate that could lead to a comprehensive House of Representatives discussion. There has been no debate about how Australia may assist in future medical rehabilitation of Palestinians nor how it will contribute to the rebuilding of Gaza. While the Foreign Minister may refer to a “two state solution “ there has been no official announcement that Australia finally recognises the State of Palestine.

Furthermore, the failure of the Australian public service to maintain or prioritise current independent information about the continuing assault in Gaza amounts to negligence.

In a recent meeting, United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, Director Tom White was advised “the Australian Government wanted to be sure UNRWA Gaza aid funding will go to those who need it “! This bland indeed inhuman statement clearly reflects that there is something seriously wrong with how the government is currently managing its international responsibilities.

Of course, it is embarrassing for the current Australian Government to be named as an “accessory to genocide”, but all members of parliament should not be too quick to dismiss the allegation until they have reviewed why and how such a charge could be made. The parliament hears too many simplistic speeches giving loyalty to allies who blatantly ignore international law and it’s time our representatives faced this reality.

Australia has a proud record as a founding member of the United Nations, which is responsible for developing international law. So many well-known Australian names have contributed to a great variety of United Nations achievements, yet few parliamentarians speak up for the importance of the international body. International law is being undermined by governments choosing militarism ahead of the rule of law, so it is imperative that the Australian government and parliament commit to prioritising its international responsibilities. Many Australians will be watching closely, demanding that humanitarian leadership is restored.

Margaret Reynolds is a former councillor and Federal Minister for Local Government. She chaired the Advisory Board of the Australian Centre of Excellence in Local Government at the University of Technology, Sydney 2008-2012. She has a long history in the peace movement starting during the Vietnam War. As a Labor senator she supported the Pine Gap Women’s Peace camp and visited Greenham Common to support anti-nuclear campaigners . She represented Parliamentarians for Global Action at several human rights and peace conferences in the 1990s. After leaving parliament she taught International Relations at the University of Queensland. Margaret is the National President of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom

Australian PM and Henchmen, Referred to
International Court for Support of Gaza Genocide
Birchgrove Legal

(March 5, 2024) — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been referred to the International Criminal Court as an accessory to genocide in Gaza, making him the first leader of a Western nation to be referred to the ICC under Article 15 of the Rome Statute.

A team of Australian lawyers from Birchgrove Legal, led by King’s Counsel Sheryn Omeri, have spent months documenting the alleged complicity and outlining the individual criminal responsibility of Mr Albanese in respect to the situation in Palestine.

The 92-page document, which has been endorsed by more than one hundred Australian lawyers and barristers, was yesterday submitted to the Office of ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan KC.

The document sets out a number of actions taken by the PM and other ministers and members of parliament, including Foreign Minister Wong and the Leader of the Opposition, for the Prosecutor to consider and investigate. These include:

  • Freezing $6 million in funding to the primary aid agency operating in Gaza – UNRWA – amid a humanitarian crisis based on unsubstantiated claims by Israel after the International Court of Justice had found it plausibly to be committing genocide in Gaza.
  • Providing military aid and approving defence exports to Israel, which could be used by the IDF in the course of the prima facie commission of genocide and crimes against humanity.
  • Ambiguously deploying an Australian military contingent to the region, where its location and exact role have not been disclosed.
  • Permitting Australians, either explicitly or implicitly, to travel to Israel to join the IDF and take part in its attacks on Gaza.
  • Providing unequivocal political support for Israel’s actions, as evidenced by the political statements of the PM and other members of Parliament, including the Leader of the Opposition.

Ms Omeri KC said the case was legally significant because it focused exclusively on two modes of accessorial liability.

“The Rome Statute provides four modes of individual criminal responsibility, two of which are accessorial,” Omeri said.

“In relation to accessorial liability, a person may be criminally responsible for a crime set out in the Rome Statute if, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of that crime, that person aids, abets or otherwise assists in the commission of the crime, or its attempted commission, including by providing the means for its commission.

“Secondly, if that person in any other way contributes to the commission of the crime or its attempted commission by a group, knowing that the group intends to commit the crime.”

Ms Omeri KC said the Article 15 communication had been carefully drafted by those instructing her and was now a matter for the Prosecutor to consider.

“The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC is already pursuing an ongoing investigation into the situation in the State of Palestine, which it has been conducting since March 2021,” Omeri said.

“That includes investigating events which have occurred since 7 October 2023. This Article 15 communication will add to the evidence available to the Prosecutor in relation to that situation.

“The Article 15 communication is of a piece with recent domestic legal cases brought against Western leaders in a number of countries such as in the US, against President Biden, and most recently, in Germany, against, among other senior government ministers, Chancellor Scholz.

“These cases demonstrate a growing desire on the part of civil society and ordinary citizens of Western countries to ensure that their governments do not assist in the perpetration of international crimes, especially in circumstances where the ICJ has found a plausible case of genocide in Gaza.”

Principal solicitor at Birchgrove Legal, Moustafa Kheir, said his team had twice written to Mr Albanese, putting him on notice and seeking a response on behalf of the applicants who make up a large consortium of concerned Australian citizens, including those of Palestinian ethnicity.

Mr Kheir said communications were ignored on both occasions.

“Since October we have attempted communications with our Prime Minister as we reasonably believe that he and members of his cabinet are encouraging and supporting war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians through their political and military assistance,” Kheir said.

“The Prime Minister has ignored our concerns and given the limited avenues we have for recourse under national law, we have been left with little option but to pursue this Article 15 communication to the International Criminal Court.

“Our communication has been endorsed by King’s Counsel Greg James AM and well over 100 senior counsel and barristers, retired judges, law professors and academics from around Australia who wish to test the strength of international law to hold their own democratic leaders accountable given the barriers we face to do it nationally.

“As lawyers and barristers, it is impossible to sit back and watch sustained breaches of international law while Albanese continues to refer to the perpetrator as “a dear friend.”

A copy of the application can be viewed here: ICC-Referral-Australian-Government-Ministers-and-Opposition-Leader-04032024_BLG.pdf Or here.

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