A recent joint statement from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Defence Minister Marise Payne said “the Australian Defence Force now has the full authority needed to target all members of Daesh, in accordance with international law”.
However, CONTACT notes that the statement went on to say that in the past, Australia’s domestic law was more restrictive than international law and this created some legal risk for our armed forces and posed a major challenge to the effectiveness of our operations. It meant that the ADF’s targeting base in Iraq and Syria was restricted, and we could not operate as freely as our coalition partners.
The statement goes on to say that the government will [future tense] quickly move to introduce the necessary amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code that will bring our domestic laws into line with international norms.
In other words, the Australia law that caused the concerns in the first place still has not been amended.
CONTACT notes that Australian media generally reported this story pretty much as the government wanted it reported – that the ADF is now free to target Dash more widely.
But, if the law that restricted them isn’t yet repealed, what has actually changed (except the government’s saying it has).
Is this a case of the government putting what sounds like a reasonable and sensible (one-sided) argument into the public domain in a pre-emptive effort to paint any opposition into a difficult political corner?
Or, is it a case of the government making an announcement early because they are cock sure of opposition support?
In either case, by making this announcement before the law is actually changed, does it not actually or at least have serious potential to cause even more confusion and greying of an already shady legal minefield?
I know I’m confused. I just hope our guys on the front line aren’t.
Or, if they are ‘sure’ of their legal standing, I sincerely hope this grey politicking doesn’t bite anyone (except the politicians) on the arse.
CAPTION: Commander Air Task Group, Air Commodore Philip Gordon, conducts pre-flight checks on an F/A-18A Hornet prior to departing on a mission out of Australia’s main air operating base in the Middle East region. This image has been digitally modified by ADF. Photo by Corporal Nicci Freeman
The government statement, in full, reads…
The Australian Defence Force now has the full authority needed to target all members of Daesh, in accordance with international law. This ensures we can continue to meet the evolving national security threat of this decade and well beyond.
The Government has reviewed its policy on targeting enemy combatants and made an important decision to ensure our forces are empowered to act against Daesh in Iraq and Syria to the maximum extent allowed by international law.
This now includes targeting those who may not openly take up arms but are still key to Daesh’s fighting capability.
Australia’s domestic law is more restrictive than international law. This created some legal risk for our armed forces and posed a major challenge to the effectiveness of our operations. It meant that the ADF’s targeting base in Iraq and Syria was restricted, and we could not operate as freely as our coalition partners.
The Government will quickly move to introduce the necessary amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code that will bring our domestic laws into line with international norms.
This means that ADF personnel will be supported by our domestic laws. They will be able to target Daesh at its core – joining with our coalition partners to target a broader range of Daesh combatants – consistent with international law.
The ADF’s contribution to the fight against Daesh has been a critical part of the Coalition campaign. Our contribution has always been conducted in accordance with strict rules of engagement that are consistent with Australia’s international legal obligations. We are committed to do all we can to combat Daesh while also providing greater certainty for ADF personnel.