Advancing International Justice in Australia
Structural and institutional reform
ABC Four Corners, Killing Field
Our theory of change recognised that structural and institutional reform in Australia’s investigative and prosecutorial capacity was necessary to advance and open up avenues for justice to survivor communities around the world. Australia lacks the necessary institutional mechanism to investigate atrocity crimes. The Australian Federal Police, being the agency assigned to investigate and refer for prosecutions, allegations which amount to torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, is under-resourced, under-staffed and lacks the specialist skills required to investigate these crimes. Past referrals were not taken seriously or investigated with rigour. In addition, there have been only limited allegations, and investigations and minimal international coordination of strategy. The Australian Centre for International Justice, also represents the first civil society push, necessary to encourage governments and authorities in Australia to act.
The Australian Centre for International Justice has been leading in advocating for broad structural and institutional reform necessary to conduct effective, thorough, independent and genuine investigations and prosecutions of the international crimes offences in the Commonwealth Criminal Code.
We recommend the establishment of a permanent specialist investigations unit with expert and trained investigators and dedicated resources tasked with investigating international crimes. The Australian Centre for International Justice is also pushing for Australia to develop an international crimes program to join global multilateral efforts to end the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of these crimes and provide avenues to victims survivors in their struggle to bring perpetrators to justice. We are also advocating for gender-informed protocol to ensure that Australian authorities employ a gendered analysis and approach at all stages of its investigations and prosecutions.
We know from our work in representing victim survivors that a specialist unit and dedicated resourcing and political will to end impunity, is the missing piece in the puzzle required to engage Australian authorities to undertake investigations and prosecutions into atrocity crimes. This policy objective was the subject of our first policy submission, and we have continued to lead, and collaborate with others in the sector, to push for this necessary change. Our push has been advanced in the context of strategic communications and public engagement, including through media comments and numerous opinion pieces.
Office of the Special Investigator
In November 2020, our persistent efforts and contribution to the debate achieved a significant policy advance and a major breakthrough with the announcement from the Australian Government to establish a new body, the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) to conduct investigations and refer briefs for prosecution, in respect of allegations of special forces crimes in Afghanistan. This effort has been recognised by experts from leading human rights organisations in the world, including from the ECCHR and the CCR.
The Australian Centre for International Justice was a leading voice in calling for this independent investigations unit to be established, and worked to contextualise the need for such a unit within concerted efforts globally on global atrocity crimes investigative mechanisms. We will continue to advocate for a permanent investigations unit to be a feature of Australia’s justice landscape.
Latest on Advancing International Justice in Australia
Submission: Australia’s obligation to investigate crimes of torture
In November 2022, ACIJ made a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture on the duty to investigate crimes of torture in national law and practice. Our submission noted institutional shortcomings in Australia’s capacity to investigate torture and other international crimes, and recommended the establishment of a permanent, specialist unit dedicated to the investigation of core international crimes.
Joint Media Release: AFP fails to investigate visiting Sri Lankan General for war crimes; groups now declare #TimetoSanction under Australia’s new Magnitsky regime
Read Media Release PDF (English) Joint Media Release: AFP fails to investigate visiting Sri Lankan General for war crimes; groups now declare #TimetoSanction under Australia’s new Magnitsky regime 31 March 2022 Australian Tamils and human rights groups have called on...
Media Release: The ACIJ welcomes the AFP’s investigation into alleged crimes related to Libya
22 March 2021 The Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) welcomes the announcement by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to open an investigation into alleged criminal activity of an Australian national in the context of the conflict in Libya. It follows...
Media Release: The establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator is welcome and should be made permanent
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...
Joint Media Release: Government must strengthen corporate criminal liability for human rights abuse
Please see original release issued by the Human Rights Law Centre here. 1 September 2020 Human rights and legal organisations today welcomed proposals by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) to strengthen Australia’s corporate criminal laws in relation to human...
UN Universal Periodic Review of Australia’s human rights performance: Joint NGO report
The Australian Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Coalition’s joint report on Australia’s human rights performance calls for action on the necessity of reforming Australia's institutional mechanism for investigating and prosecuting international crimes committed by...
Statement on International Justice Day 2020
Today marks International Justice Day, where over 22 years ago, a coalition of hundreds of civil society and victims’ organisations, human rights defenders, regional organisations and states, came together in Rome to support a process which led to the adoption of the...
Media Release: Prosecute the war crimes, not the journalist
3 July 2020 The Australian Centre for International Justice has condemned the referral, by the Australian Federal Police, of a brief of evidence to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP), to consider laying charges against journalist Dan Oakes, for...
Media Release: Disturbing new allegations of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan
17 March 2020 Following an ABC investigation into new allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan, revealed last night by the Four Corners report ‘Killing Field’, Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, Ms Rawan Arraf...
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The Australian Centre for International Justice fights to hold accountable those responsible for the most serious international crimes. It continues to be an enormous challenge.
We work with survivors of torture, sexual violence, genocide and war to research and develop strategies to fight for justice.
We are Australia’s first specialist legal centre providing strategic advice and representation to people seeking justice and accountability.
We take action against the impunity of those responsible for committing atrocity crimes. We all benefit by supporting communities in Australia and around the world access justice.
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