In an interview with Guardian Australia, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has voiced his opinion that ‘like-minded nations’ should consider a revision of the 1951 ConventionRelating to the Status ofRefugees (“the Convention”). The objective of such a revision would be (though he has not explicitly said so) to degrade the non-refoulement obligation, which provides that States cannot expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. It is the cornerstone to refugee protection and the subject of the vast majority of refugee-related litigation globally.
What VAD means for s 2 of the Suicide Act 1961 (UK)
Much like Australia, the UK has had its fair share of debate, both in Parliament and before the courts, regarding the scope and human rights implications of assisted dying. The starting position in the UK is the blanket ban on assisted suicide enshrined in s 2 of the Suicide Act 1961 (‘Suicide Act’). Since the seminal decision of the UK Supreme Court in R (On the Application of Nicklinson and Anor) v Ministry of Justice  UKSC 38 (‘Nicklinson’), several bills (e.g. here and here) proposing amendments to the Suicide Act to permit various forms of assisted dying have been debated before both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. None, however, have passed through to enactment and the blanket ban persists: it is an offence, punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment, to encourage or assist (or attempt thereto) the suicide of another, whether the individual actually dies or not.
Victoria has recently become the latest jurisdiction to legalise assisted dying (a term employed here as a ‘catchall’ phrase intended to cover both assisted suicide and euthanasia). It joins Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the US States of California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, and the District of Columbia, which have all introduced legislation permitting some form of assisted death.
Missing from this list are jurisdictions such as Switzerland in which assisted suicide is not unlawful but is also not expressly permitted by legislation. This might come as a surprise, as Switzerland is widely recognised as a jurisdiction that allows assisted suicide, largely as a result of organisations such as Dignitas which provide assistance to residents and non-residents in dying by suicide. In Switzerland, however, there is no legislation akin to Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (‘VAD’). Rather, art 115 of the Swiss Penal Code criminalises assisting or inciting another’s suicide based on ‘selfish motives’. Thus, provided the assistance is not so motivated, it may be given without risk of prosecution.
Your book has been described as a ‘cautionary tale’ about the sharing of border control policies, particularly in the context of the European refugee crisis. What are your main concerns about this ‘race to the bottom’?
My main worry is that the hard-won institution of asylum is under threat. The 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, concluded in response to the failure of states to give refuge to those fleeing Nazi Germany, creates certain obligations for governments in relation to protecting asylum seekers. States around the world are turning their backs on these obligations by implementing progressively more restrictive measures aimed at keeping asylum seekers away. These include policies like mandatory detention, interception and push-backs at sea, and extraterritorial detention and processing. All of these are aimed at blocking and deterring asylum seekers from accessing a state’s territory.
In his address at the opening of the current session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), the High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Husseini announced that, since this would be his last address as High Commissioner, he was going to be blunt – and indeed blunt he was.
His first target was the permanent members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council (SC) and the ‘pernicious use of the veto’, which made those who used it responsible, ‘second to those who are criminally responsible … for the continuation of so much pain … it is they – the permanent members – who must answer before the victims’.
With the development of peer-to-peer networks and the dark web (a sub set of the deep web), child abuse activities are now mostly occurring in anonymous and encrypted environments largely out of reach of law enforcement bodies. Images are stored by the terabytes on personal hard drives and shared by the millions. For some people the anonymity seems to have ignited what may previously have been latent tendencies. (Understanding and Preventing Online Sexual Exploitation of Children, Edited by Ethel Quayle and Kurt M. Ribisl. 2012 Routledge. Chapter 11, ‘Situational prevention of child abuse in the new technologies’. Richard Wortley, Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, University College London. Introduction.) Fueling the problem and driving it to new almost unthinkable dimensions is the issue of desensitisation and destabilisation. (Heather Wood, Internet pornography and paedophilia, Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, (2013) 27:4, 319-338)
It has been estimated that each year, approximately 25 million unsafe abortions take place. This number represents nearly half of all abortions undertaken worldwide. Almost all unsafe abortions occur in developing countries, where around 7 million women annually are hospitalised following terminations performed without the assistance of a trained health worker and in other conditions that place women at risk. Whether abortion is legal and accessible play an enormous role in determining whether a woman will have to take this route to end an unwanted pregnancy.
It is undeniable that the right to life represents a fundamental building block to achievement of all other human rights, but where argument tends to arise is in asking in whom this right accrues. The question of when life begins, considered from scientific, legal, philosophical and religious perspectives, yields a variety of answers, none of which is definitive. Yet, while this may be an interesting philosophical debate, for women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies the discord becomes tangible. Throughout the world women’s bodies are the subject of government intervention in the form of how society deals with the legality and practicalities of abortion. While some regimes are highly permissive, treating abortion as an issue of women’s health, others are restrictive to the point of harm, to the extent that a woman may be convicted of a crime for having suffered a miscarriage.
The absolute prohibition of torture, both as a matter of treaty law and international customary law, has been described as one of the ‘few issues on which international legal opinion is [most] clear’ and its transgressors rightfully identified as the ‘common enemies of mankind’. In SZTAL and SZTGM v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  HCA 34 (SZTAL), the High Court of Australia recently had cause to consider the CAT, ICCPR, and other international legal materials regarding torture, in relation to Australia’s ‘complementary protection regime’ established through the Migration Act 1958 (Cth)(Migration Act).
Human Rights Watch called for the release of Yemeni activist Hisham al-Omeisy, whom Human Rights Watch claims has been detained by Houthi authorities. Human Rights Watch states that al-Omeisy was arrested by 15 officers on 14 August 2017 in Sanaa. They claim he has not been charged, brought before a judge or given access to a lawyer or his family, and that he is in an undisclosed location. Amnesty International has made a similar statement.
In December 2015, Australia’s Federal Parliament amended the Citizenship Act 2007 (Cth) (“Citizenship Act”) to add avenues by which dual citizens could lose their Australian citizenship for terror-related conduct. Much of the commentary on the amendments has focused on the justifications behind the legislation, and the implications for Australia’s compliance with international human rights. Less commentary has focused on how the new provisions interact with, and likely contravene, Australia’s international security obligations.