Morrison Government soft on international war crimes

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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Canberra in February (Screenshot via YouTube)

A parliamentary speech has drawn attention to the Morrison Government's willingness to turn its back on matters of international crime, writes Peter Wicks.

LAST WEEK in Federal Parliament, there was a speech that flew under the mainstream radar. Not because it didn’t cover an important topic – it did – but perhaps because it didn’t relate to coronavirus, sports rorts or toilet paper.

The speech in question only went for 90 seconds. But in that short time, it managed to shine a light on a part of the world with a largely ignored humanitarian crisis in progress and it also showed the Morrison Government is happy to not just turn a blind eye to international crimes but actually act to prevent their investigation.

The speech was by Labor’s Member for Corangamite, Libby Coker. For a first-term MP, it is an exceptionally brave move to go against the grain, put herself on the hit list of a powerful lobby group. She should be commended for having the guts for pulling the Government up over its hypocrisy.

The Morrison Government is soft on crime.

So much so that it has sought to block the prosecution of war crimes and human rights abuses still occurring in Palestine and the occupied Palestinian territories by the International Criminal Court. Not because crimes have not been committed, but because Australia does not recognise a Palestinian State.

There is apparent bipartisan support for a two-state solution. However, with undefined borders, Australia refuses to recognise the Palestinian State. Given the borders in question are shared, this also makes the Israel border undefined, but that logic apparently doesn’t apply to Israel, which Australia recognises as a state.

As far as our Government is concerned, Palestine is a dead zone. The land international law forgot.

In her speech, Libby Coker stated:

“The underpinning of a civilised world is not only Australian domestic law but also international law.”

The ICC prosecutor has spent the last five years investigating a huge number of criminal acts in the Palestinian State that Australia fails to recognise. These investigations were not only into Israeli crimes but also into crimes committed by Palestinians.

Given crimes from both sides were being investigated, you would think that any nation that considers itself to be a good global citizen operating under a rule of law would be encouraging the prosecution of criminals. Not Australia. Not under a Morrison Government.

A clue as to why this may be the case comes in the findings from the preliminary investigation. This investigation covered the 2014 war, which had a death toll of 2,251 on the Palestinian side and 74 on the Israeli side. An alarming difference in numbers. What makes the death toll even more alarming is that the overwhelming majority of Palestinian casualties were civilians, while most of the Israeli casualties were soldiers.

No matter what side of this conflict you support – or indeed if you don’t have an opinion on the conflict – the fact remains that criminal acts should not go unpunished. If an Australian was murdered in Palestine most Australians would like to think our nation would recognise the land and would seek justice for a crime committed.

As a nation, we should be demanding justice, not searching for loopholes to allow human rights violators to remain unpunished.

Libby Coker asked at the end of her speech:

“Why should Australia not leave the umpire to do its job?”

It’s actually worse than that. Australia has waited until the end of the game, seen the result and is trying to have the game and umpire declared invalid so a result is not declared.

Under a Morrison Government, we have become a nation that is content to see an innocent family locked up indefinitely in a detention centre on Christmas Island while using self-made loopholes to try and block the prosecution of international war criminals.

What is even more tragic is that hardly anyone raises an eyebrow.

The ICC is still determining whether it has jurisdiction to prosecute. Let’s hope justice is done despite the Australian Government.

Peter Wicks is a former Federal Labor Party staffer. You can follow him on Twitter @MadWixxy.

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