Questioned Australia’s response to the Israeli’s government’s classification of Palestinian human rights organisations as terrorist organisations and requested clarification on any concerns Australia holds about Amnesty International’s report on Israeli apartheid.
I want to start first of all with the Israeli government’s unlawful designation of six Palestinian civil society human rights organisations as terrorist organisations. What’s the government’s response to the Israeli government’s refusal to provide its evidence to the groups affected? Has the Australian government been provided with any evidence?
Whole interaction with Mr Marc Innes-Brown PSM (First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division) during Senate Estimates (Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio).
Senator RICE: Thank you. I want to start first of all with the Israeli government’s unlawful designation of six Palestinian civil society human rights organisations as terrorist organisations. What’s the government’s response to the Israeli government’s refusal to provide its evidence to the groups affected? Has the Australian government been provided with any evidence?
Mr Innes-Brown : We continue to monitor this case. We did ask for some information on what the basis of those designations was. I think we covered that in the previous estimates. We have received some information.
Senator RICE: Have you received what the Israeli government claims to be the evidence?
Mr Innes-Brown : We’ve received some information from them. Whether it’s all the evidence or not, I don’t know.
Senator RICE: That’s why I’m trying to differentiate. They refused to provide that evidence to the groups affected, so do you feel you have been given that evidence?
Mr Innes-Brown : I feel like I’ve been given some information, whether it’s the entirety of the basis of the actions they’ve taken, I don’t know.
Senator RICE: Have you requested further information from them?
Mr Innes-Brown : Not recently. They provided some information to us. They obviously felt that what they provided us was what they could tell us, and we have received it.
Senator RICE: Are you satisfied with that evidence? You haven’t requested any more. Do you still think it is an inappropriate and unacceptable thing for them to have done?
Mr Innes-Brown : We are not experts on the Israeli legal system, and it’s not really for us to judge whether the information they’ve provided us meets the test of Israeli law. I’m not qualified to do that.
Senator RICE: So the Australian government and DFAT are not willing to call on Israel to immediately revoke these designations?
Mr Innes-Brown : Not at this stage; it’s a matter for Israel. Australia is not a party to the issue.
Senator RICE: What’s the government and the DFAT’s view about the legality of the Israeli government applying domestic antiterrorism statute against civilians in occupied territory? Doesn’t that constitute a violation of international humanitarian law?
Mr Innes-Brown : I’m not sure that I’d accept that characterisation. As I said a minute or two ago, we are not qualified to make declarations or decisions about the applicability of actions that Israel has taken in accordance with—
Senator RICE : Therefore, you’re not going to criticise them. In terms of the Amnesty report and allegations of apartheid, in response to the report both the foreign minister and the Prime Minister indicated that they don’t agree with the report’s characterisation of Israel. Putting aside the legal definition, what specific facts about human rights does the government believe Amnesty has got wrong in this report? Have you done your own analysis?
Mr Innes-Brown : As I noted earlier, there are a number of issues that from time to time we take up with Israel and that we, the Australian government, feel we should be taking up. We’ve done so quite recently, as we have done over a period of time, and we will continue to do so as necessary. It’s for our own assessment of the situation, including information provided by our post, to take up issues that we see are relevant.
Senator RICE: Are there any specific issues in the Amnesty report that the Australian government believes Amnesty got wrong?
Mr Innes-Brown: As I said, we continue to take up issues of concern and we will continue to do so.
Senator RICE: That wasn’t my question, with all due respect. My question was: are there any specific issues that the government believes Amnesty got wrong in their report?
Mr Innes-Brown : We’re in danger here of just repeating what we said earlier this morning about our view on some of the phraseology that’s been used in the report. But there are some categories of issues that we are concerned about, and we do take them up in our engagement with Israel.
Senator RICE: Could you take on notice, if there are particular issues that you feel Amnesty have got wrong in this report, to tell us what they are?
Mr Innes-Brown : Sure.