Daily Archives: 14/05/2021

Australia/Timor Leste: ‘Entirely undemocratic’: Lawyer Bernard Collaery to challenge secrecy orders


Lawyer Bernard Collaery and Witness K allegedly revealed Australia bugged East Timor’s cabinet during tense oil and gas negotiations.

Lawyers acting for Bernard Collaery will next week challenge a court order requiring large parts of his trial to be held in secret as the long-running case continues into his alleged efforts to expose a secret Australian operation to bug East Timor’s government.

The ACT Court of Appeal will hold a two-day hearing on Monday and Tuesday into an order made under national security laws to hold the trial largely behind closed doors.

Mr Collaery, the former lawyer for an ex-spy known as Witness K, is challenging an order made by the ACT Supreme Court last year to accept former attorney-general Christian Porter’s application to invoke the National Security Information Act, which governs how courts should handle sensitive information. The NSI Act requires the court to give “greatest weight” to the Attorney-General’s views about the national security implications of a case, which has resulted in large portions of the hearings being held in secret.

Mr Collaery, a barrister and former ACT attorney-general, is facing the prospect of jail for allegedly helping his client reveal information about Australia’s bugging operation of East Timor’s government during commercial negotiations to carve up the oil and gas resources in the Timor Sea.

Witness K, a former intelligence officer for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, has indicated he will plead guilty to breaching secrecy laws by revealing Australia’s spying on East Timor, but Mr Collaery is continuing to fight the charges against him. The Witness K case is being held up by disagreements over whether he can access his affidavit that was used by East Timor in international proceedings in the Hague, which his lawyers argue need to be before the court for his sentencing.

Mr Collaery is charged with offences relating to the alleged disclosure of information to both the East Timor government and the Australian media.

After East Timor commenced legal proceedings in the International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of Arbitration, the two nations signed a revised energy treaty in 2018 dividing the Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields.

Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Kieran Pender said there was no public interest in prosecuting Mr Collaery and Witness K.












India/UK: Lawyer who documented 6,733 Punjab disappearances, illegal cremations booked on 2019 I&B complaint


The Chandigarh Police registered a first-information report against a United Kingdom-based lawyer Satnam Singh Bains on 19 April, nearly two years after the ministry of home affairs sent “inputs” about him to the ministry of information and broadcasting. Satnam is an activist who founded the civil-society group Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project in 2008. The PDAP aims to uncover excesses committed by security forces in Punjab between 1984 and 1995, a period of turmoil in the state. The PDAP says it has documented at least 6,733 cases of disappearances and illegal cremations in this time. It released a documentary on these cases, titled “Punjab Disappeared,” in 2019. That year, the MHA told the MIB that the documentary propagated “the agenda of pro-khalistan elements.” The MIB complained to the Chandigarh Police about this, but the police did not find any substance in this claim. The MIB had also mentioned that the documentary was screened without certification—in April this year, Satnam was booked for this offence.

The PDAP has led perhaps the most expansive effort to show the scale of the mass state crimes that took place in Punjab under the guise of curbing militancy. Based on its work, a crucial petition that seeks to show the state’s heavy handedness in 1980s and 1990s was filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 14 November 2019. Satnam is a counsel of the petitioners and the PDAP’s documentary is a part of the petition. The petition notes that families of many victims have lived without closure; without knowing whether their kin are dead or alive. It says that many family members have been denied basic rights—such as death certificates of the victims, access to pension and succession rights—just because the state has chosen to not acknowledge the crimes of the police and security forces. The petition seeks an “independent and effective investigation into these killings and a diligent prosecution of those involved in the murders and the subsequent cover-ups.”

The case against Satnam indicates a clampdown against the PDAP and the petitioners. The MIB complained to the police in July 2019, but the FIR against Satnam was only registered in April 2021. Rajvinder Singh Bains, Satnam’s co-counsel in the petition, said, “We read it as a crude attempt to undermine the legal defence of the victims and the exercise of prosecuting the guilty [police officers] and an attempt to prosecute those who we called human rights defenders.”

The FIR was registered against a complaint, dated 23 July 2019, from Ashok Parmar, a joint secretary in the MIB. He wrote that “inputs have been received” from the MHA that Punjab Disappeared was “Propagating the agenda of pro-khalistan elements.” He mentioned that the PDAP violated the Cinematograph Act of 1952 by holding a “public exhibition” without certification from the Central Board of Film Certification. Parmar asked for “necessary action against exhibitor and producer of the documentary” and provide details of the action taken. While it was registered at the police station in Sector 36, the crime branch in Chandigarh’s Sector 11 had been enquiring into the matter. The FIR booked Satnam under the Cinematograph Act. According to the act, the exhibition of a film that has not been certified by the CBFC is punishable with imprisonment for up to three years or with a fine that may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.






Thailand: Lawyer and Land Rights Activist Gunned Down in Trang Province


Thailand, Lawyer and Land Rights Activist Gunned Down in Trang Province

Human Rights Watch said today Thai authorities should immediately investigate the killing of a lawyer and land rights activist. Somsak Onchuenjit was gunned down in Trang province in southern Thailand.

Successive Thai governments have failed to prevent or adequately respond to attacks against human rights defenders who represent landless farmers, Human Rights Watch said.

On May 4, 2021, at about 7:40 a.m., an unidentified gunman fatally shot Somsak, 54, while he was working in a rubber plantation near his home in Trang province’s Wangviset district. Somsak had recently told his family that he had been followed and was receiving death threats.

Furthermore local authorities had neither investigated the threats nor arranged any measures to protect him.

“Thai authorities should not just stand by while grassroots activists in southern provinces are being murdered for standing up for their communities,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Thai government should urgently conduct a credible and impartial investigation and bring those responsible for Somsak’s death to justice.”


Lawyer and Land Rights Activist Gunned Down in Trang Province