G20: Observing human rights…


The ‘G20 Human Rights Observers’ team has released their preliminary report into the G20 protest last weekend. It’s available as a PDF.

The 3-page statement is an initial summary of observations made by Human Rights Observers over the three days.

A team of 28 Human Rights Observers monitored interactions between police and members of the public during the protest actions around the G20 meeting from early on Friday 17 to late in the afternoon on Sunday 19 November…

The report is highly critical of protester behaviour and describes a high level of aggression and deliberately provocative behaviour toward the police from some protest groups and individuals.

It also states that there was a “high level overall of police discipline and restraint in the face of deliberately provocative actions by some protesters, lasting many hours.”

However, the statement points out that this initial discipline and restraint declined as the protests wore on and numerous concerning incidents involving police use of force occurred. The team highlights the police baton charge against a non-threatening crowd at the Melbourne museum on the Sunday afternoon.

“Our timeline analysis points to a decline in police restraint over a period of time” Mr Kelly said. “Whilst it is understandable that stress and provocation would cause a decline in police discipline, the maintenance of appropriate police protocols, lawful actions and consideration of human rights is even more important during times of stress.”

The statement also points to the arrest of Mr Drasko Boljevic by plain clothes police officers. The statement calls on the Victorian and Federal Police forces involved in ‘Taskforce Salver’ to exercise careful observation of the law when undertaking any further arrests.

Mr Kelly admits that both police and some protest groups are likely to be critical of this initial statement. “Whenever there is an escalation of political violence, the human rights of citizens become increasingly difficult to protect. It would be regrettable if protest groups, the police or the public missed this point.”

The Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) Inc, with the support of Pt’chang Nonviolent Community Safety Group Inc. and the Human Rights Law Resource Centre (HRLRC) co-ordinating the Observer Team. A detailed report will be compiled with the assistance of experienced human rights lawyers and released by the end of the year.

In other news, Australian Attorney-General Montgomery Burns and ASIO have won the right to appeal the disclosure of documents knowledge of which threatens to destroy the foundations of the Australian state and send otherwise decent, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens into a crazed frenzy of violent acts and jay-walking. “Lawyer Charles Gunst, for the Director-General of Security [Paul O’Sullivan], told the court its judgment in this case could set a precedent and cause irreparable harm to national security.” The freedom (non-incarceration) of the two men deemed by ASIO to constitute a risk to national security, meanwhile, is verboten, and the two left to rot:

‘Rotting’ on Nauru

The Age reported in September that Mr Faisal was medically evacuated to Brisbane after becoming suicidal. It said Mr Sagar remains the last asylum seeker kept on Nauru.

Outside court today, the men’s solicitor, Maurice Blackburn Cashman partner Anne Gooley, accused ASIO of delaying their case by pursuing the appeal.

She said an appeal before a full bench of the Federal Court was not likely to be heard until next year.

“In the meantime, (one of my clients) is in a psychiatric institution, not knowing what’s going to be happening to him, and (another) is on Nauru, ‘rotting’ as we speak,” she said.

“He’s obviously going to be disappointed at this latest delay … he’s been on Nauru for five years now.

While the rest of us can sleep safely in our beds.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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3 Responses to G20: Observing human rights…

  1. monty miller says:

    The HROT (Human Rights Observer Team) is a good project and I commend the organisers and workers on it. However, in the context of stop g20 — which is a radical project — we need to be aware of the limitations of initiatives like the HROT. An important limitation concerns its problematisation of political violence at demonstrations. The HROT, its rationale and its methods, are constituted within a liberal rationality of goverment which offers some protection for those who seek to resist domination and exercise power and freedom. Nevertheless, in the liberal rationality we can speak of three types of police violence: one, legitimate; two, necessary though legitimate; or three, abusive. It is this problematisation of violence which has led to significant blind spots in the HROT report. Take the case of the street party outside parliament house on the Saturday night. A peaceful crowd had gathered on the road intersection and two protesters locked on to a car. The protesters were not harming anyone physically. At the most, they were causing a public nuisance by holding up traffic. Police \’moved in\’ and \’dispersed\’ protesters with a baton charge. Police were violent (see the video), several people were injured and the police created a confrontation. This \’manouvre\’ by police was not characterised as problematic in the HROT preliminary report.

    I suggest that we could try to articulate a framework for thinking about political violence where such blindspots are avoided. This involves problematising liberal rationalities (which includes Marxist revision of the same rationalities) of government and incorporating radical frameworks for thinking about violence and peaceful protest. Trotskyist groups have problematised protester violence on the basis that it leads to bad press reporting. I think that we need to get beyond such thinking which assumes that power is a matter of the dominant class ruling by the consent of the people. Power is not consent. It is a dynamic process involving tactics, actions, evasions and resistance (which of course is related to the deployment of knowledge). Thus, at a demonstration, resistance to power can involve a physical (eg locking onto a vehicle in the path of traffic) resistance as well as, inter alia, a resistance connected to knowledge (eg dissolving the liberal dichotomy between responsible and irresponsible protest).

    These are some rather unstructured comments which I hope will help me to sort out this issue philosophically and perhaps lead to debate with an intelligent person (or two).



  2. monty miller says:

    Well said Monty!

    Could I put it more simply? What gives Bracksy’s g20 praetorian guard the right to close off our streets? Why do the goons have more right than us to gather in the middle of the road and stop traffic? Why is a baton charge more justified than a riot? These are questions that Anthony, god bless him, and all of his hardworking hro team (top men and women, to be sure) cannot answer. Right has been established by domination and violence. Lawyers can help to uphold right but achieving freedom is up to us.


  3. @ndy says:






    A few things, and last things first.

    Political demonstrations are physical manifestations in public spaces of public opinion, desire and, if you like, power/resistance/knowledge. Usually, in contemporary Australia at least, they take the ritualised form of —

    ‘What do we want?’


    ‘When do we want it?’

    ‘Whenever you get around to giving it to us!’

    — with this last bit about ‘giving’ often interpreted as meaning — “in the last instance” — ‘Fuck off or we’ll arrest you’: a sentiment expressed as often as thought necessary by the miserly (and well-armed) guardians of law ‘n’ order.

    Happily, in a liberal democracy such as ours, shoppers who are unhappy with their purchase of Brand Z have the right — nay, the duty! — to verify in advance the decisions of Brand X over Brand Y. Such bourgeois largesse was demonstrated here in Victoria quite recently.

    Unhappily, resignations from this political system, it is made quite clear, will not be accepted.

    But all that’s pretty much routine — if slightly bizarre — analysis of the political limitations of ‘liberal democracy’ in the twenty-first century.

    Returning to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Trotskyist response to the outburst of ‘ultra-violence’ at the G20 protest is (with the obvious exception of Mick Armstrong, who contributed on this occasion with exceptional political insight and acute local political acumen) fairly tedious (as usual), but has just as much to do with mundane preoccupations with the trials and tribulations of local party-building in a difficult market, I would suggest, as it does broader, philosophical issues to do with violence and the law.

    (Well, that’s what 40 or so Kiwi anarchists reckon. One of the (many) Swedish football hooligans I spoke to about the events reckons different… but that’s another story.)

    As for the HROT, yeah: a liberal understanding of the law combined with a liberal understanding of society produces a liberal analysis of protest violence.

    On a completely unrelated note, by my calculations, since the opening of the G20 Summit to today, 360,000 children have died from ‘poverty’.



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