Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 01:00 | SYDNEY
Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 01:00 | SYDNEY

Australia and war criminals


Fergus Hanson


4 February 2009 13:27

Australia inched towards an embarrassing first yesterday: the successful extradition of a resident war criminal. We have never managed such a basic feat before despite persistent claims that suspected war criminals are living here and a handful of attempts by other countries to extract them. We have a cumbersome extradition process which means there is still room to appeal the Federal court decision, but perhaps things are about to change.

The Rudd government came to power promising to close the loopholes in Australia's war crimes legislation and review investigatory resources to allow perpetrators found here to be brought to justice. Australia implemented border screening for war criminals in 2002, but much more needs to be done to keep pace with international trends — a growing number of Western countries are establishing dedicated war crimes units to meet their international commitments to end impunity for war crimes and ensure they are not safe havens. 

So far the Australian government is yet to implement its commitment but the reforms required to do so would be relatively modest. A policy brief I'll be launching next Wednesday looks at Australia's past and current approach to suspected war criminals living here and offers a series of suggestions for ending the impunity they enjoy.