Julian Burnside, one of the nation’s senior most barristers and refugee advocate has spoken about his attempt to convince the International Criminal Court to investigate crimes against humanity committed on refugees in offshore detention centres.
The Melbourne QC told an audience over the weekend he was tying to recruit high-profile International law duo Amal Clooney and Geoffrey Robertson to conduct the proceedings.
“If we got Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and a couple of others in the dock at The Hague, the Nuremberg Defence (“I was only following orders”) wouldn’t work,” Burnside told a sold-out auditorium at the University of Western Australia.
“I’m working on a plan to persuade the ICC to investigate the things that we are concerned about.”
“I think the fact that an investigation was happening would have a real, chilling effect on their conduct.
“I’m trying to recruit (leading British barrister) Geoffrey Robertson and Amal Clooney.”
The revelations were made during his lecture ‘We Are Better Than This’, where he outlined his concerns about Australia’s failure to process the vulnerable individuals, who are often fleeing persecution and violence, in a humane manner.
Burnside said this was the moral failure of both Labor and coalition governments for more than 15 years.
In his lecture he added that Australia would be better off redirecting some of the $4-5 billion in spending on offshore processing and border control to the UNHCR, so that they could quickly and humanely process claims for asylum in Indonesia and Malaysia.
“We have seen in history how otherwise civilised people can be persuaded to tolerate intolerable conduct on their behalf by their country,” he said.
“We’ve been induced to think of boat people as criminals. A three-year-old child? Really? We are frightened of a three-year-old child? That’s why children in detention has always been a weak spot. Once we see past our fear we are capable of very good things.”
Mrs Clooney, a human rights lawyer, is expected to be continuing her work on quite a number of high-profile international cases, including representing Armenia against a Turkish politician’s claims denying the Armenia genocide as well as weighing in on the ongoing legal proceedings for the repatriation of the Greek Elgin Marbles from the UK.