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The clinical execution of Osama Bin Laden in his redoubt in Pakistan has reminded us again of the many public policy issues related to terrorism. It was also in Abbottobad that the Bali bomber, Umar Patek, was arrested in January. It is now suggested he was on his way to see Bin Laden. Was he tortured, and did his interrogation lead the Americans to their quarry?

Is torture of any kind, including waterboarding, acceptable conduct by those who job it is to track down terrorists? How long is it reasonable to detain and interrogate suspected terrorists before bringing them to trial?  And is anti-terrorism part of a military campaign or an international law-enforcement effort? And, finally, what is the definition of a terrorist, and what does international law say about him or her?

Over the last two decades, and particularly since 9/11, terrorism has come to the fore as one of the most serious threats to international peace and security. 

The Australian Institute of International Affairs and the NSW Young Lawyers International Law Committee jointly invite you to discuss this important issue with three authorities:

Adjunct Professor Clive Williams MG, Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism,MacquarieUniversity. Clive Williams has a career background as an officer in the Australian Intelligence Corps, which included a number of overseas intelligence appointments. After leaving the Army in 1981, he pursued a civilian career in Defence Intelligence, working mainly on transnational issues. He was a Chevening scholar at the War Studies Department, King’s College,London, in 1987. He has worked and lectured internationally on terrorism-related issues since 1980, and started running terrorism courses at the ANU in 1996. He left Defence in 2002, and has since run terrorism and national security-related Masters course electives at the ANU and a number of Australian and overseas universities. He became an Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism (PICT) atMacquarieUniversity in 2006. He also became a Visiting Professor at theSchool ofHuman and Social Sciences (HASS) of theUniversity ofNSW at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in 2006. He is a member of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators (IABTI), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers (AIPIO), and an Associate of the International Academy of Investigative Psychology (AIAIP).

Dr Christopher Michaelsen is a Senior Research Fellow at the UNSW Law Faculty. He teaches and specialises in public international law, human rights and international security. Prior to joining UNSW, he served as a Human Rights Officer (Anti-Terrorism) at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, Poland. He has previously worked for the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs in New York City, and at the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre of the Australian National University in Canberra. He has served as a consultant for the Asian Law Group in Semarang, Indonesia, and for the Center for Global Counter-Terrorism Cooperation in New York City. Chris is a member of the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and a member of the Australian Human Rights Centre.

Dr James Renwick is a Barrister practising at the Sydney Bar. He is a former Fulbright Scholar. Prior to coming to the NSW Bar he was a solicitor in bothprivate and government practice, with a particular emphasis on public law. Some notable terrorism related matters include: representingAustralia at the trial of David Hicks atGuantanamo Bay,Cuba in late 2004, and appearing for the Police and ASIO in a number of terrorism prosecutions. He pioneered the teaching of national security law in Australia, gave one of the keynote addresses on that topic to the Judicial Conference of Australia in 2005 and, in January 2008, devised, organised and spoke at a major conference on the conduct of terrorism trials, held in Washington DC, and undertook the same roles in 2010 in a conference on Jihadi recruitment. He is an Associate of the Sydney Centre for International Law, which is part of the faculty of Law within theUniversity ofSydney.

Robin Bowley (Seminar Moderator) is a former officer in the Royal Australian Navy and graduate of the Australian Defence Force Academy and Royal Australian Naval College. He is currently working as a solicitor for an Australian government regulatory authority and completing a PhD at theUniversity of Wollongong on maritime terrorism and international law. Formerly a council member of the AIIA; Robin is the current Stream Administrator for International Maritime and Aviation Law with the NSW Young Lawyers International Law Committee.

Date: Monday May 16, 2011

Time: Refreshments 6:00 pm; Presentation 6:30 pm – 7.30pm

Venue: The Glover Cottages, 124 Kent Street, Sydney (located adjacent to the Kent St Fire Station)

Cost: AIIA/YL members $15; Senior members / students $10; Visitors $20; Senior Visitors $15


2. Telephone acceptance to (02) 9247 8504 (if unattended leave a voicemail message)

3. Payment may be made at the door by cash/cheque/credit card


On Tuesday evening, the AIIA and Young Lawyers International Law Committee held their first joint event on the future of immigration and refugee law and policy in Australia. The event was a resounding success and was attended by more than 80 members of our respective organisations.

The discussion panel consisted of Sydney University professor, Mary Crock, whose specific research interests range from studies of the interaction between Parliament and the judiciary, to the legal rights of migrants and refugees. Her research and analysis of the various policies and laws enacted by the Australian Government exposed serious flaws in our approach to refugees and Mary’s passion added a dimension to the discussion that humanised the whole experience.

Mary was be followed by Kerry Murphy, a partner of D’Ambra Murphy Lawyers working on all aspects of migration law including administrative and judicial review. Kerry’s work has taken him to the many Detention Centres scattered throughout Australia and off-shore. Listening to some of his experiences and hearing about the hardship suffered in these camps was vital to appreciating the austerity of some of the immigration legislation passed in the last ten years.

Pouyan Afshar, the immediate past president of NSW Young Lawyers and an Associate at Baker & McKenzie, closed off the discussion with his account of the cultural and social elements that rarely gain a mention in these kinds of discussions. Drawing from his own experiences as a migration agent and working with refugees as an interpreter, Pouyan’s account of the economic, political and cultural dimensions of the debate regarding “illegal immigration” had a grounding affect that was the final ingredient required in such a discussion.

Immigration and refugee law in Australia has been thrown around the political landscape to emulate the same emotional reactions synonymous with crime and social welfare. This is not a political issue. As Mary states: “The number of refugees who come to Australia as asylum seekers – by plane or boat – is minute in world terms. The numbers are manageable. Most come because of prior connections with communities in Australia.” Australia has a legal, moral and ethical requirement to approach this issue as more than just a political one.

Discussions such as these are vital to understanding the real issues that face Australia regarding immigration and refugees and I’d like to thank our panellists for their insightful and grounded contribution to this debate.

If you would like to read more about this topic, please find below a selection of articles that deserve a read:

International law has taken three body blows in the last decade: Serbia, Iraq and now Libya, where foreign interference is patently obvious, where the entire anti-Gathafi campaign is orchestrated from abroad, manipulated by the media and controlled by elements who have been trying to assassinate the Libyan leader for decades.”

In an article published in Pravda.Ru, a Russian online journal,, the editor of the English version, Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, claims that:

“not all Libyans are against Colonel Gathafi, which is patently obvious in Tripoli and probably in other areas, where they dare not show their heads among marauding crowds of thugs, terrorists and vandals who have taken the streets, the darlings of an anti-Gadhafi international media which appears to support acts of terrorism and public disorder”

He makes the point that “what is at stake here is respect for international law, which upholds the right of all countries to apply their Constitution in their own territory.” While his editorial is blatantly anti-American, it provides an interesting perspective on the current crisis in Libya and identifies key weaknesses in the application of international law during war.

This insight comes as the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in accordance with the requirements under the Rome Statute  announced the opening of an investigation in Libya after just four days of analysis. The speed is unprecedented, as the prosecutor normally spends many months before reaching a decision to actually commence an investigation. Both the Security Council resolution and the swift response by the prosecutor is an indicator of the growing importance of the ICC in international affairs.

The ICC is different from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which, with its predecessor court, has operated for nearly a century. While the ICJ handles legal questions involving states (such as the West Bank security barrier), the ICC is a criminal court that tries individuals. This is one of the material differences of the ICC and the ad hoc international tribunals created largely in the past two decades: they can take custody of individuals, try them, and put them in prison. The idea is that holding individuals accountable (and not just states) is the most effective way to deter serious violations of humanitarian law and human rights.

Interestingly, the United States not only supported the referring the Libyan situation to the ICC but even helped circulate a draft resolution with the idea, although it is not a party to the Rome Statute and it abstained in the referral of the Darfur violence.

As in the case of Darfur, the investigation regarding Libya might lead to arrest warrants targeting not only Col. Qaddafi and his family but also officers, soldiers, paramilitaries, or mercenaries engaged in criminal acts. If the court succeeds in taking suspects into custody, the process could then continue toward trials or sentencing.

Even if the process does not go that far, ICC involvement could still affect events significantly. ICC action is now a card in the hands of opponents of the Qaddafi regime. In any negotiations with Qaddafi, his opponents could use the stick of ICC prosecution (and the carrot of the Security Council’s suspending ICC action for renewable twelve month periods) as an incentive for Qaddafi to stand down. If Qaddafi decides to leave Libya with ICC action ongoing, then he might need to opt for countries like Nicaragua or Cuba that are not party to the Rome Statute, rather than a Rome Statute state like Venezuela. If violence continues, the threat of ICC prosecution also could motivate those working or fighting for Qaddafi to refuse orders.

Is international law enforceable under wartime conditions?

What role does the media play in building potential cases to be heard in the ICC?

Please post your comments below.

Adam Segal of the Council of Foreign Relationsrecently labelled State sovereignty as a more 19th century concern. Considering the continuing evolution of the Responsibility to Protect and events in Iraq, Afganistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is Mr Segal correct? Are we becoming sufficiently globalised to consider State Sovereignty less of a concern than it was in the 19th century? The centrality and importance that debates over security and immigration have or had in most of the current or recent elections around the world argues that Sovereignty is far from dead. Nonetheless, the recent and continuing crisis in the global financial system provides support for Mr Segal’s position.

Are we seeing a trend away from the centrality of Sovereignty in international and domestic law? Are we approaching a tipping point, after which globalisation will continue to inexorably strip away Sovereignty? Alternatively, is the current global position a low point for Sovereignty, from which we will return to a less globalised position, at least from the point of view of international and domestic law? Your thoughts?

I highly recommend looking at the following sites and subscribing to their newsfeeds or email alerts:

 The International Crisis Group is a very highly respected international non-government organisation (NGO) focused on preventing and resolving conflict situations through analysis and advocacy.

Another great site for international news, and especially for those with a specific interest in International Humanitarian Law is the Human Security Report Project. The Project is a research body making that research, as well as international news, public.

Transparency International is another highly respected NGO, focusing upon combating corruption around the world. Of particular relevance to lawyers is the corrosive effect corruption has upon the rule of law and all the issues stemming from that, such as respect for the law and access to justice.

Jurist is a news site published by the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Law, which provides legal news and articles submitted by (often most highly qualified) publicists.

Lastly, and certainly not least, is perhaps the capital s “Source” site for international news and developments in international law and relations, the United Nations. For their news service, click here.

The Lowy Institute is an independent international policy think tank based in Sydney. Its objective is to generate new ideas and dialogue on international developments and Australia’s role in the world. Its mandate is broad. It ranges across all the dimensions of international policy debate in Australia – economic, political and strategic – and it is not limited to a particular geographic region.

Check out their website for numerous useful research papers and project information.

The front page story in today’s Australian covers Kevin Rudd’s somewhat bizarre declaration that a Federal Labor Government would attempt to take legal action against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the International Court of Justice on a “charge of incitement to genocide”.

Read the rest of this entry »

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THE RED TELEPHONE is the newsblog and discussion forum of the International Law Committee of NSW Young Lawyers, a division of the Law Society of New South Wales.

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