Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) supports presumption of innocence and fair trials, argues automatic termination of citizenship is discriminatory and counterproductive

July 21, 2015

“ALHR believes that Australia should deal with Australian criminals and terrorists in our own courts and not put them beyond the reach of Australian law by terminating their citizenship” says ALHR President Nathan Kennedy about the Federal Government’s proposed amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act.   “Nor do we agree with automatic termination of citizenship for alleged but unproven behaviour. The accused must receive a fair trial to establish whether or not the offence actually occurred. The Bill throws out the presumption of innocence.”

“The Bill is likely to be counterproductive” says Mr Kennedy “because when their citizenship is terminated these former Australians cannot necessarily be prosecuted under Australian law.” “Further, the Bill is discriminatory because it establishes two classes of Australians – those who can be stripped of citizenship by the Bill (because they have some theoretical right to another nationality), and those who cannot.”

“The Bill is far too broad and gives the executive excessive power” says Nathan Kennedy. “The Bill imposes automatic loss of citizenship even for many comparatively minor offences which do not cause physical harm. It potentially strips citizenship even for medical assistance through Médecins sans Frontières or the Red Cross, threats of serious property damage, or whistleblowing in the public interest.”

Mr Kennedy expressed concerns that there would be no transparency or accountability of citizenship decisions under the Bill. “The Bill contains insufficient mechanisms for independent and comprehensive review and insufficient safeguards in the light of international human rights standards” he said.