News & Views

Human Rights Watch: Australia’s credibility abroad undermined by crackdown on protest rights

In a report published on 12 January, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that the Australian government’s treatment of protesters is undermining its credibility when promoting human rights abroad.

In its World Report 2023, HRW criticised new laws in several Australian states and territories that target peaceful climate protesters as ‘disproportionate’, ‘excessive’, and an example of government overreach.

HRW found that ‘…authorities in New South Wales [in particular] were disproportionately punishing climate protesters, and that magistrates were imposing harsh disproportionate penalties and bail conditions on climate protesters in violation of their rights.’

HRW also highlighted concerns about pro-democracy students from China as well as university staff being threatened by supporters of the Chinese government. The Australian Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security released a report examining foreign interference which recommended mechanisms to report incidents of foreign interference, deterrence for students who report on activities of fellow students to foreign governments, and closer scrutiny of student associations linked to authoritarian governments.

MALS calls on all state and territory governments across Australia to repeal their oppressive anti-protest laws and ensure everyone’s right to peaceful protest is protected.

This is a live issue. There are anti-protest laws across four states including Victoria, and over-policing and activist harassment continues in all states and territories.

Join the call to repeal anti-protest laws and human rights protections at every level to enshrine the right to protest across Australia.

Send a letter to Federal Labour MPs here.

Melbourne Activist Legal Support (MALS)

is an independent volunteer group of lawyers, human rights advocates, law students and para-legals. MALS trains and fields Legal Observer Teams at protest events, provides training and advice to activist groups on legal support structures, and develops and distributes legal resources for social movements. MALS works in conjunction with law firms, community legal centres, and a range of local, national, and international human rights agencies. We stand up for civil and political rights.

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