PO Box L23 South Maroubra NSW 2035 Australia;

Ph/fax +61 2 9311 0159
Website http://www.hrca.org.au       ABN 51998793677




IMMEDIATE – March 9, 2003


Prime Minister should focus on saving lives not taking them


The Human Rights Council of Australia today accused the Prime Minister Mr Howard of hypocrisy for answering hypothetical questions to advocate executing Osama bin Laden while refusing to answer real questions about Australia’s participation in any war against Iraq. The Council challenged the Prime Minister to release international law advice given to the Government in relation to Australia’s inevitable involvement in any United States war against Iraq.


“The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, is dodging the real questions about Australia’s involvement with the United States in a war against Iraq.  He has not explained why Australia must invade Iraq now. He has not provided the legal advice behind his decision to go to war – the ‘legal niceties’ as he has called it. He has not outlined his efforts for peace or to save civilian lives. Instead he seems pleased to talk hypothetically about killing,” Chris Sidoti, National Spokesperson for the Human Rights Council said.


Appearing on the US Fox TV network on Friday, Mr Howard answered a hypothetical question about his views on executing Osama bin Laden if he were captured. He repeated his views on Australian television today. But the Prime Minister has refused to answer questions on Australia’s involvement in war against Iraq without the approval of the Security Council on the grounds that such questions are hypothetical.


Mr Sidoti said, “Catching Osama bin Laden is a hypothetical situation. Sending Australian troops to war is not.  They have already been deployed. The Australian Government is poised to join the United States in a war against Iraq without United Nations approval. It must release for public scrutiny and debate the international law advice it has undoubtedly received about the legality of Australian involvement.


“The Prime Minister’s latest repudiation of Australia’s human rights promises makes us fear the worst. This is a Prime Minister eager to overturn thirty years of bipartisan Australian opposition to the death penalty, to break the solemn promises successive Australian Governments have made. He knows that Australia has been leading international efforts to abolish the death penalty. That is the official position he should represent, whatever his personal prejudices. It must be an act of desperation to choose now to become the first mainstream Australian political leader to voice support for the death penalty in three decades. He is seeking to divert attention from the Government’s unequivocal support for an unpopular, unlawful war.”


For further information and comment please contact: 

Chris Sidoti – 02 9773 9441 / 0414 467 784

Patrick Earle – 02 9311 0159 / 0401 932 196