Wednesday May 18 2005 10:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"Refugee advocates right around Australia have expressed serious concerns about the views of Mr Mirko Bagaric, and demand that all RRT review cases of asylum claimants refused by Mr Bagaric be re-opened and re-assessed," WA Refugee lobby group Project SafeCom said this morning, after its office yesterday was inundated with phone calls from concerned advocates and supporters.
"Here is a man who, in line with the dangerous structure of the Refugee Review Tribunal, on his own sits in judgment of the lives of refugees - and he thinks that torture is a fine thing to have in society."
"It is unbelievable, that when incidences and evidence of torture in a refugee's home country is often the main reason for 'being in fear of persecution' - the fear of torture, evidence of turture, or previously having been subjected to torture - that this man with his academic rose-coloured glasses about the place of torture in the world should have been sitting in judgment of refugee cases."
"We will not pre-empt whether or not Mr Bagaric was indeed subject to bias or skewed assessments as a part-time member of the RRT since 2003, but this is a very grave situation," Mr Smit said.
"Pondering about Mr Mirko Bagaric and whether he made fair decisions in his RRT hearings, Canberra-based Sister Jane Keogh told us yesterday":
"....searching his decisions on the website of the Refugee Review Tribunal, I found 45 of his decisions listed where he decided in favour of all the Afghanis and of one person from Uganda, but he rejected the appeals of everyone from China, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Albania, Vietnam, Egypt, India, Bangladesh and Turkey. Hypothetically, suppose a number of the 34 rejected went home and faced death or persecution. By Mr Bagaric's reasoning how many would have to be killed for it to be a 'moral catastrophe'?"
"And if the number he suggests was exceeded then would I be justified in torturing Mirko before his hearings if I thought it was the only way to prevent such a catastrophe?"
Mr Smit as well as Ms Keogh stressed that "....everyone in Australia should be 'alert and alarmed' not just about the views of Mr Bagaric, but also about what this exposes about the structure of the RRT. Many people think of Australian football when they think of a Tribunal, but hardly anybody knows that the RRT members assess a case entirely on their own. In Howard's Australia, the RRT member is God when it comes to life and death matters."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Sr Jane Keogh
Refugee Action Committee, Canberra
[phone number posted]