New counter-terrorism legislation will undermine rights Australians hold dear

The Australian Citizenship (Allegiance to Australia) Amendment Bill 2015, expected to pass the Senate tomorrow, is a flawed Bill that threatens the very human rights and freedoms Australians hold dear.

Under the proposed legislation Australian dual-citizens can lose their citizenship for alleged activities committed overseas, without undergoing a trial or being convicted of any offence.

A severe act

“Stripping citizenship is one of the most severe acts a state can take against an individual, yet this Bill will allow authorities to strip Australians of their citizenship based solely on evidence that would not stand up in court. It flies in the face of one of the most fundamental tenets of law: presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” said Diana Sayed, human rights lawyer with Amnesty International Australia.

“This is a deeply flawed Bill that contains inadequate safeguards and oversight mechanisms to prevent the removal of citizenship from Australians who are, in fact, innocent of serious terror offences overseas.”

At odds with UN Strategy

Amnesty International’s submission on the Bill acknowledged the parliament’s responsibility to protect national security.

However, the government has not produced any evidence that removing citizenship to prevent people from returning to Australia is a proportionate response that will reduce terrorist activities.

“Australian citizens suspected of terrorist activities should be afforded due process, and, if found guilty in a court of law, face justice for their actions,” said Diana Sayed.

Undermining the presumption of innocence puts Australia at odds with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which says that respect and protection of human rights and the rule of law are a “fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism”.

Liberties must be protected

“In protecting Australia’s national security, the Government must not jeopardise the very laws and liberties that underpin a free society,” said Diana Sayed.

“Stripping citizenship must always be exceptional and a last resort.”

“We remain concerned about further restrictions on freedom that have been proposed by this Government. This Bill is the latest in a long line of legislation to use a perceived threat to national security to steadily erode the rights and freedoms of Australians, with little evidence it will make Australians safer.”