Civil Liberties Australia has taken part in a ‘dialogue’ preparation process with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in early August 2018
DFAT undertakes such consultations in getting ready to sit down with some countries with whom we have an ongoing exchange of ideas relationships.
There were about 15 participants in the Iran consultation, many of whom had provided written submissions. CLA representatives were President Kristine Klugman and ANU Law student member Elly McLean (who was the lead author for the CLA submission). CLA Director Jennifer Ashton participated as President of AAFICS, the Australian member group of the Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants (she is a former UNHCR Resettlement Coordinator, among other roles with refugees).
The consultation was well run with adequate time for participants to ask questions or make comment. The basic question raised was whether such dialogues were worthwhile with such a political system as in Iran. There are reports of many abuses of human rights, apparently reflecting a systematic situation.
DFATs view is that is it better to engage than not: that discussions with Iran on human rights issues may have some influence and result in incremental changes.
The CLA representatives asked a question each.
Elly McLean asked: It is well observed that sustainable change, especially regarding human rights progress, in a country often comes from within and not without. That being the case, shouldn’t Australia be doing more to pressure the removal of systemic failings and judiciary intimidation that has led to the imprisonment of many political activists, journalists and opinion makers? The progress could be led internally if we were to tackle corruption and the faulty due process of the revolutionary courts from the outside. Will DFAT be pressuring for the removal of the revolutionary courts as a priority? If so, how? Or is that too sensitive a topic currently?
The answer was that justice and the judicial processes were on the agenda for discussion.
Kris Klugman asked: With reference to international treaty obligations, what is the Australian government’s response to criticism of the current offshore detention of asylum seekers? A. Australia engages openly and the rationale for the policies are explained.
Jennifer Ashton asked: Will Department of Home Affairs people be involved in the two-way dialogue with Iran, given that Iranians are among the refugees detained by Australia? A. No.