12 November 2020
The Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) welcomes the establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) by the Australian Government. In anticipation of the release of a redacted version of the report of the Afghanistan Inquiry, led by Justice Paul Brereton, the Government announced that a separate body, acting under the powers of the Australian Federal Police Commissioner will be led by an eminent person with experience in the criminal justice system and in international law. Importantly, the OSI will be staffed with experienced investigators, legal counsel and support personnel. The Government recognised that international cooperation is necessary because of the complexity of these types of investigations. The OSI will investigate allegations of crimes, gather evidence and where appropriate refer briefs for consideration of prosecution to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution.
Principal Lawyer and Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, Ms Rawan Arraf said:
“The establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) is a welcome and pivotal step. We have been calling for a specialist unit to be established within the AFP for the past two years. It has been the missing puzzle in Australia’s ability to conduct investigations into atrocity crimes and ensure that victims and survivors of these crimes have avenues to access justice. The OSI should also include a section that focuses on and ensures victims and their families are included in the process as far as possible.
“However, the OSI should become a permanent mainstay of Australia’s justice landscape. This is an important opportunity to consolidate the build up of this body’s expertise in investigating these crimes. This should also be the time to develop a national strategy and program for Australia to join the global fight to end the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of atrocity crimes, and assist victims and survivor communities in their struggle for justice and accountability.”
The ACIJ made its first submission about the establishment of a specialist unit in this submission in February 2019. Together with the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) we made these recommendations in a joint submission to an Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry in February 2020. The recommendations made by the ACIJ and the HRLC were accepted by the ARLC in their Report, read more in this release here. This policy recommendation was also made in the Australian Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Coalition’s joint report on Australia’s human rights performance calling for action on the necessity of reforming Australia’s institutional mechanism for investigating and prosecuting international crimes committed by Australians and other foreign nationals, and improving access to justice for victims of serious crimes under international law
For media enquiries contact Rawan Arraf on 0450 708 870.