7 November 2003

His own private Guant�namo

Always eager to keep up with the Bushes, the Howard government has created a watery Guant�namo off Melville Island in the Northen Territory.

The [NT] Supreme Court in Darwin has been told that 14 suspected Turkish asylum seekers are no longer in Australia.

Lawyers in Darwin lodged an application to allow the asylum seekers to apply for refugee status

However, lawyers for the Federal Government have told the court the asylum seekers are now outside Australia, are not in custody or detention, and are free to go anywhere they like except Australia."

According to John-Pierre Fonteyne, professor of international law at the Australian National University:

'That is essentially the upshot. We can pretend as much as we want that they haven't reached Australian territory, but in terms of international law they have. Therefore our obligations under the convention apply. You can't use your domestic law to simply pretend that an international obligation under the 1951 Convention on Refugees doesn't apply because you've passed a domestic law which says 'it doesn't apply to us.' As I have suggested in an article previously, why don't we just excise the whole of Australia from the Australian migration zone, and we would have no problem at all. Wouldn't matter where they arrived, we wouldn't have to process them.'

What the NT Supreme Court does with the government's attempt to exclude its jurisdiction should be interesting.

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