Senate debates

Thursday, 12 November 2020


Human Rights

5:37 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to take people on a speedy trip around the world tonight in my five minutes, but, sadly, it's one that's going to be focused on the hotspots for human rights abuses around the world. I'm starting with Bangladesh, where Amnesty International reports that in 2019 more than 388 people were killed by the security forces in alleged extrajudicial executions. Amnesty also reports that the Digital Security Act severely restricts the work of journalists, activists, human rights defenders and others who face arrest for exercising their right to freedom of expression. In this context, I note that US senators have written a bipartisan letter calling for action to address extrajudicial killings, including by the Rapid Action Battalion, which is reported to be responsible for more than 400 killings. In their letter they wrote that extrajudicial killings have reportedly spiked since the government of Bangladesh began its war on drugs. They noted that UN experts consider that the war on drugs appears to be a deliberate policy of extrajudicial killings and they urged Bangladesh to respect the rule of law and human rights. Australia needs to be doing more to be supporting free and fair general elections in Bangladesh and to work for a democratic environment that will encourage people's participation and protect human rights.

Now I want to move to Colombia, where we have heard devastating news of massacres of protesters. Since the signing of the peace agreement with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC, hundreds of people have been killed, including activists, human rights campaigners and environmental advocates. Recently, police opened fire on protesters in Bogota, killing multiple people and wounding dozens more. We urge the Colombian government to take every step possible to ensure that the lives and human rights of Colombian citizens are protected, including their right to protest safely.

I turn to the arrest of Kurdish leaders in Turkey. In its World Report 2020, Human Rights Watch said:

Cases against HDP

the People's Democratic Party

politicians provide the starkest evidence that authorities bring criminal prosecution and use detention in bad faith and for poltical purposes.

More recently, the Turkish government has issued warrants for 82 individuals over protests that occurred in 2014. We are very concerned about the Turkish government's use of criminal prosecutions as a way to silence their political opposition. This breaches fundamental human rights, and the Australian government must call on them to cease.

I now want to move to Sri Lanka. I have heard from activists there who are concerned about the activities of an Australian mining company, Titanium Sands, on Mannar Island. Titanium Sands describe their project as 'a world-class mineral sands deposit' and said that it was located in a 'mining-friendly jurisdiction'. But a petition from people impacted by these activities in Sri Lanka speaks of a vulnerable, low-lying coastal area where tens of thousands of people live and depend on fishing for their livelihood. They told me that, if mining is allowed to proceed, this will spell the end of Mannar Island, 63 per cent of which is already below sea level. They tell of the destruction of old-growth forests, the impact on migratory birds and on fishing, and the increased salinity in wells and groundwater, as well as impacts on tourism and historic sites. Projects like this bring Australian businesses into disrepute, and pressure must be brought to bear on Titanium Sands to not proceed with this destructive project.

Now I turn to occupied Palestine. While the world's attention was focused on the US election, Israeli authorities demolished most of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank, displacing 73 Palestinians, including 41 children, in the largest such demolition in years. The UN estimates that 689 structures have been demolished across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2020, leaving 869 Palestinians homeless. In parallel with this serious violation of international law, the Israeli government has been embarking on a settlement-building spree. These actions demonstrate that, although official annexation has been put on hold, the creeping annexation that we have seen for years by the Israeli government continues. This has grave consequences for the prospects of a peaceful solution to the conflict and for the human rights of Palestinians on the ground.

Unfortunately, my time to speak is limited, so I can't go on, but we urge the Australian government to do more to actively call out global atrocities and abuses around the world. Human rights should be universal, and we need to keep calling out human rights abuses until they are. (Time expired)

Senate adjourned at 17:42