Senior Australian unionist Paul Howes wrote recently that Israel’s murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai was a wonderful thing to celebrate.
Retiring Labor MP Julia Irwin disagrees and said the following in Federal Parliament on 15 March:
Mrs IRWIN (Fowler) (9.18 pm)—I rise tonight to comment on an article in the Sunday Telegraph on 7 March
2010. The article, by the National Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Mr Paul Howse, highlights three
things: (1) that Mr Howse is ignorant of the concept of justice; (2) that Mr Howse has little appreciation of the
values that Australians hold dear: and (3) that Mr Howse is completely ignorant of why unionists the world
over abhor extrajudicial killings. Mr Howse’s article celebrates the recent killing in Dubai of Mr Mahmoud al-
Mabhouh, a member of the Palestinian group Hamas, which Mr Howse described as ‘an ugly Islamo-fascist
terrorist organisation’. Paul Howse not only praises the extrajudicial killing of al-Mahbhouh, but happily declares his pride in Australia’s accidental involvement by virtue of the use of forged Australian passports to facilitate the travel of those involved in this murder.
While no-one is rushing to claim responsibility for the killing, there is ample anecdotal supposition that the
state of Israel may be responsible for this extrajudicial killing. Anecdotal evidence and supposition do not stand
up in a court of law. In the absence of a direct admission or direct evidence of the real identities of those involved there may be little that can be done, and that is very much the point. We will now never have the evidence against al-Mabhouh presented to a court. Its veracity will never be tested. There will be no due process. Al-Mabhouh will never face his accusers, and the families of his alleged victims will never have the opportunity to see him face public scrutiny for his alleged crimes, nor will they receive justice. These families will never have the opportunity to see the evidence and know for certain that al-Mabhouh was directly responsible for their tragedies.
In the case of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, he was captured, due process was observed, he was tried in a court of
law, evidence was presented, and he was convicted and sentenced. The families of Saddam Hussein’s victims
received justice. The old adage says: justice must not only be done; it must be seen to be done. Extrajudicial
killings fall far short of this standard and they have no place in a true democracy. Yet Paul Howse is happy for
our laws to be broken, for our sovereignty to be impinged upon and for the Australians whose identities were
stolen to be placed in precarious positions—Australians, I might add, who share Israeli citizenship, Australians
who now face the prospect of being detained whenever they travel because of Interpol alerts. They must now
prove their innocence but even then when they travel their doubts will remain, not to mention the other Israeli
dual nationals from various countries who have also had their identities stolen in the commission of this murder.
I am certain that these individuals would object to their identities being stolen for the commission of a crime.
The term extrajudicial killing is a polite way of referring to state sponsored murder, the execution of individuals
without judicial sanction and without due process. Of course the Dubai killing is not the first time extrajudicial
killings have been used as a tool to eliminate those deemed to be enemies of the state or simply undesirable. It has long been a tool of totalitarian regimes and military dictatorships around the world. Regimes in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin and South America have all used this tool to eliminate opponents. In Latin and South America, for example, those who were opposed to right-wing regimes or military dictatorships were simply eliminated by right-wing death squads. Many of these were unionists representing the working class and defending workers’ rights and many were identified as left-wingers or communists and deemed opponents of a regime. Thousands disappeared in an orgy of kidnapping, torture and murder. In south-western Sydney today the Latin and South American communities tell of their stories. Many have told me personally of fleeing from their homelands in order to escape the extrajudicial punishment and extrajudicial murders meted out at the hands of regime thugs, often police, military or intelligent operatives acting under a cover with a nudge and a wink from those apparently in charge. Many lost family and friends without justification, and many victims remain missing even today.
It may be easy for Paul Howse to glorify extrajudicial killings from the sidelines, but if we legitimise this
extrajudicial killing we legitimise them all, because each one is based not on law but on hearsay and a subjective
point of view. But such a view may not always be admissible in a court. It has no legal basis and falls far short
of the judicial and community standard. It would be open slather. What would the reaction have been had the
killers in Dubai been discovered and forced to kill others to effect an escape? A hotel worker, a hotel guest or a
tourist—would they have just been collateral damage? What would the reaction of Paul Howse have been had the
killings taken place on the streets of Sydney or Melbourne? Would the Australian media have been as accepting?
Would we have excused this as an act of a friend?
While professing to share those values that we as Australians hold dear, Mr Howes is ready to compromise
them by terminating a life without judicial warrant or excuse. If it is acceptable for one group to act outside
traditional norms and practices and kill, then it will be open to others to act in a similar way. Civilised societies
do not accept this. Democratic and fair societies certainly do not. Australia does not and would not condone
extrajudicial killings, nor can we accept being a party to them, intentionally or unintentionally. Mr Howes needs to be reminded that in Australia we no longer have the death penalty. In fact, legislation has just passed in this parliament to extend the current Commonwealth prohibition on the death penalty to state laws. It ensures that the death penalty cannot be reintroduced in Australia; and extrajudicial killing, therefore, necessarily cuts against the grain. To be involved in its commission innocently or otherwise is abhorrent and unacceptable.
The killers of al-Mabhouh, and their supporters, were willing to commit identity fraud and commit passport
and visa fraud to travel to a third country to murder an individual declared an enemy of the state by a small,
unknown and unaccountable group of individuals. In so doing, the perpetrators have trampled on the sovereignty of several nations, including our own—Australia. The reaction of the federal government, the Prime Minister and the foreign minister is entirely appropriate. The use of forged Australian passports is now being investigated by the Australian Federal Police and other agencies. Action will no doubt be taken if the evidence obtained warrants it.
Rest assured that any further action by the Australian government will not involve extrajudicial punishment.
As a society Australians have always championed legal rights. Evidence is collected by the police and assessed
by the state’s legal officers. If that evidence warrants them, charges may be laid against an accused. Due process is observed. The evidence is presented in a court of law. If the accused is found guilty, punishment is handed out according to law—not according to what I think, not according to what Paul Howes thinks, but according to the law. Justice is not only done; it is seen to be done. It is the foundation of our Australian democracy and it is the foundation of our Australian society. I shudder to think where we might be without it,but I shuddered even more when I read the last paragraph of Paul Howes’s article:
Therefore, it is in our nation’s interest to do whatever we can to remove these vile people from power—by any means necessary.
Paul Howes—judge, jury and executioner.