I kept silent to protect my colleague and friend, Kylie Moore-Gilbert. But Australia’s quiet diplomatic approach is not working



Abedin Taherkenareh/AAP

Jessie Moritz, Australian National University

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a Middle East expert from the University of Melbourne, has now been held by the Iranian government for almost two years.

She was arrested in September 2018 and then convicted of spying and sentenced to ten years’ jail. She has denied all allegations against her, and the Australian government rejects the charges as baseless and politically motivated.

Until recently, Kylie has been in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin prison, run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. But this week, she was transferred to Qarchak, which is notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners.

Portrait of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been detained in Iran for more than 680 days.
Department of Foreign Affairs

Kylie is a colleague and a friend. For the past two years, I have been keeping silent in the hopes a quiet diplomatic approach would secure her freedom.

But it is hard to overstate how horrific this week’s development is. Australia needs to do more.

‘Entirely alone’

I am a Middle East analyst, who specialises in the Persian Gulf. In fact, Kylie and I first met because we both work on state-society relations in Bahrain. I can see, examining the treatment of other foreign political prisoners in Iran, that Kylie has been treated exceptionally poorly.

In letters smuggled out of Evin prison last year, Kylie wrote how she felt “entirely alone”. She has also written how her “physical and mental health continues to deteriorate”.

Media reports indicate Kylie was able to speak to her family about a month ago and Australian diplomatic staff have also been in contact.

However the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s statement this week – that they are “urgently seeking further consular access to her at this new location” and “hold Iran responsible for Dr Moore-Gilbert’s safety and well-being” – suggests Australia was not consulted before her transfer to Qarchak.

On Wednesday, The Guardian reported a recording of Kylie out of Qarchak. Speaking Persian, she says:

I can’t eat anything. I feel so very hopeless […] I am so depressed.

Is this all two years of diplomacy has bought us?

Australia must do more

I am not speaking out now to challenge this quiet diplomatic approach regarding Iran. I am speaking because I believe more public pressure must be placed on the Australian government to ensure it is living up to its own rhetoric.

DFAT claims Kylie’s case is “one of the Australian government’s highest priorities, including for our Embassy officials in Tehran”.

But the amount of secrecy involved in the process means we cannot know if this is true.




Read more:
The Australian government needs to step up its fight to free Kylie Moore-Gilbert from prison in Iran


Even though the situation is sensitive, there are avenues Australia can pursue on behalf of Kylie.

Based on my analysis of publicly reported cases, around one in three foreign political prisoners in Iran over the past five years have been released via a prisoner swap. This reportedly includes Australian tourists Jolie King and Mark Firkin who were arrested in Iran last year.

Based on publicly available knowledge, Australia does not currently hold any Iranian prisoners. However our key ally, the United States, does.

The politics are not straightforward

It must be acknowledged that the politics around this case are very complicated. Relations between Iran and the US and far from friendly – especially after the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

There is another problem, too.

Despite Australia maintaining constructive relationships with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, they are not the key to securing Kylie’s freedom.




Read more:
As pressure on Iran mounts, there is little room for quiet diplomacy to free detained Australians


The Iranian political system is fragmented and parts of the army, judiciary and intelligence agencies report to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rouhani and Khamenei’s relationship is also poor and Khamenei’s influence has grown since Kylie was first incarcerated. Iran will hold presidential elections in 2021 and as Khamenei seeks to secure Iran’s future, he may attempt to empower a more hardline president.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walking in front of a portrait of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Relations between Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are poor.
Iran President handout

This means Australia must think outside the box to secure Kylie’s release. The solution to this crisis is undoubtedly a diplomatic one – and we clearly need to spend more diplomatic capital than we’re already using to fix it.

But it will become more difficult if we do not put sufficient resources into her release before the next presidential election.

This case is relevant for all of us

COVID-19 also makes Kylie’s situation more urgent. My assessment is the Australian government must urgently push for Kylie’s immediate transfer out of Qarchak prison, to a safe location where her consular access and health can be protected.

There is precedent for foreign detainees to be transferred to house arrest in embassies while cases are resolved.

Beyond the harrowing personal situation, Kylie’s case is also relevant to all of us. It fits a wider pattern, where the space for academic research is being narrowed in authoritarian states. This is occurring not just in Iran but in countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

If this research cannot be conducted, or if the Australian government fails to protect its researchers who need to do fieldwork in these countries, this allows authoritarian states to silence criticism.

And then set the narrative about their internal politics as they see fit.




Read more:
Scholars’ growing insecurity puts academic freedom at risk


The Conversation


Jessie Moritz, Lecturer in Middle East studies, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Regulator failing to resolve complaints on alleged human rights abuses by Australian companies


Shelley Marshall, RMIT University

The Australian National Contact Point (ANCP) was set up as part of Australia’s membership of the OECD to hear complaints on the way Australian corporations operate overseas, but research shows it’s poorly resourced and rejects most claims at the initial assessment stage, raising concerns about its effectiveness.

There are National Contact Points already operating in OECD countries, that are achieving more with their mandate to promote Australian businesses respecting human rights while operating or based in other countries.

Australia does not have a legal framework that specifically regulates the human rights obligations of Australian corporations overseas. The Australian government is missing a vital opportunity to promote sound and ethical business practice and mediate disputes before they blow up, by inadequately resourcing this important human rights body.

Why is the ANCP needed?

Australian companies now operate all around the world in mining, manufacturing, finance and other industries. Sometimes this is through wholly owned subsidiaries, sometimes they invest in joint ventures or part shares, and at other times Australian businesses procure parts through supply chains.

When their activities negatively impact communities overseas, those affected should be able to go to the ANCP to hear their complaints. Though, in principle, communities can take their claims to local police and courts, in many countries corruption, bias and long waits often make remedy through legal avenues impossible.

Company structures also sometimes render it difficult to hold the parent company or a lead company in a supply chain responsible, even though that business may be calling the shots.

As the Australian government adheres to the OECD’s guidelines for multinational enterprises, it’s required to have a National Contact Point to assist corporations in observing these guidelines. Part of this includes providing a platform for mediation and conciliation.

Though its findings may not be legally enforceable, the ANCP is particularly important because it’s the only avenue for redress for many communities and individuals affected by Australian business, outside our national borders.

Properly resourcing the National Contact Point would allow the government to better fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).

Findings by other National Contact Points, when it comes to breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, have been highly influential in other countries. For example, the UK NCP determined that mining company Vedanta Resources had breached human rights guidelines regarding its planned mine in India.

It found the mine would displace thousands of tribal people. This finding resulted in high profile divestments from the company by a number of shareholders and the adoption of a new corporate social responsibility approach by the company. Interviews with shareholders that divested revealed that although the determination was not legal in nature, it was seen to have heightened authority because it came from the UK government.

How the ANCP is failing

The research on Australia’s NCP is part of a larger project that conducted 587 interviews with 1,100 individuals mainly in Australia, the UK, India and Indonesia. It assessed the performance of the ANCP based on an analysis of every claim that has been lodged with the body.

It found that the ANCP has all but abdicated its workload; it rejected or transferred (to another NCP) two thirds of all complaints made. With only one exception, the remainder of accepted complaints were closed without resolution, as the ANCP was unable to bring the parties to mediation and unwilling to issue a determination against the company the subject of complaint.

In the more than ten years since its establishment, the ANCP is yet to make a single determination against a company the subject of complaint.

In my meetings with Treasury, the department confirmed that until recently, one public servant was tasked with running the ANCP, who already had a full-time load of other work. Treasury also disclosed this single staff member, with no expertise in the area, was expected to deal with complex human rights complaints involving some of Australia’s biggest companies, around their primary role, with no dedicated budget.

To provide a point of comparison, the Dutch NCPhas two full-time staff, as well as other staff who have responsibilities to the NCP as part of their other duties, and receives an additional €900,000 over three years to promote corporate ethics. It is advised by four independent members and four advisory members from the government departments most relevant to business and human rights. Australia’s NCP receives no such independent advice.

The cases brought to the ANCP include a complaint regarding ANZ’s alleged financing of logging in Papua New Guinea and alleged forced evictions at a coal mine in Colombia jointly owned by BHP Billiton.

What needs to change

There are several ways the ANCP can improve its functioning and provide access to remedy. Top amongst these are: improving the independence of the ANCP and properly resourcing it, improving the process for handling complaints and increasing transparency.

If there was ever a time that the much neglected ANCP has a chance of being reformed, it is now. Australia is making a bid for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council this year.

The ConversationModern slavery – especially the extent to which it taints the supply chains of Australian businesses and businesses operating in Australia – is the subject of a parliamentary inquiry and national attention. Hopefully this important human rights mechanism gets the attention it deserves.

Shelley Marshall, Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow, expert in corporate accountability, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Australian Politics: 14 July 2013


With the return of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in Australia, things have been moving along fairly quickly in Australian politics. Time of course is running out as an election looms, so time is necessarily of the essence. One of the areas that the ALP has moved to address is the carbon tax, with Kevin Rudd’s government moving toward an emissions trading scheme. This has brought the typical and expected responses from the opposition, as well as charges of hypocrisy from the Greens. For more visit the following links:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/kevin-rudd-confirms-government-to-scrap-fixed-carbon-price-20130714-2pxqi.html

The link below is to an article that pretty much sums up the situation currently in Australian politics I think – well worth a read.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/12/tony-abbott-fall-stunt-men

Also causing continuing angst in Australia is the issue of asylum seekers and boat people. There has been even more terrible news from the seas surrounding Christmas Island, with yet another asylum seeker tragedy involving a boat from Indonesia.

Around the edges of the mainstream parties are those of Bob Katter and Clive Palmer. There are stories of an alleged financial offer from Clive Palmer’s ‘Palmer United Party’ to join with ‘Katter’s Australian Party’ for $20 million dollars and form the combined ‘Katter United Australian Party.’ For more visit the links below:

http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/palmer-denies-deal-with-katters-party/story-e6frfku9-1226679175607
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-14/katter2c-palmer-at-odds-over-claims-mining-magnate-offered-fin/4819098

And finally, for just a bit of a chuckle – not much of one – just a small chuckle, have a read of the following article linked to at:

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/turnbull-still-not-laughing-at-tonys-internet-humour/story-fnii5s3z-1226679169349

Brazil: Benny Hinn’s Son Involved in Beating a Man at Crusade


The link below is to an article that reports on an alleged beating of a man at a crusade event in Brazil by three men, including the son of Benny Hinn – Joshua Hinn.

For more visit:
http://global.christianpost.com/news/pastor-benny-hinns-son-detained-for-allegedly-beating-man-at-brazilian-crusade-90252/

C. J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries Facing Lawsuit


The link below is to an article reporting on a lawsuit being brought against C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries over alleged covering up of child sex abuse.

For more visit:
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2012/10/cj-mahaney-sovereign-grace-ministries-sued-for-concealing-child-sex-abuse.html

Pakistan: Latest Persecution News


The link below is to an article about how a 12-year-old mentally disabled girl is facing life imprisonment for alleged blasphemy in Pakistan.

For more visit:
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/08/22/mentally-disabled-christian-girl-faces-life-imprisonment-for-blasphemy/.

Latest Persecution News – 13 June 2012


Christians in Pakistan Allege Seizure of Graveyard

The following article reports on the latest news of persecution in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, where a Christian graveyard is being lost to corruption.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/pakistan/article_1592468.html

 

Injuries Severe after Bauchi, Nigeria Suicide Bomb Attack

The following article reports on the bombings of Christian churches by Boko Haram and alleged military involvement.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/nigeria/article_1594492.html

 

Iranian Authorities Shut Church in Tehran

The following article reports on the continuing persecution of believers in Iran and the closure of a church in Tehran.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/iran/article_1595449.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Latest Persecution News – 29 April 2012


Christian’s Six-Year Sentence Upheld in Egypt

The following article reports on the latest news of persecution in Egypt, with the prison sentence being served by Makarem Diab being upheld. He was charged and jailed for alleged blasphemy. A further appeal has been scheduled following violence during the latest appeal hearing.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/egypt/article_1520392.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Latest Persecution News – 19 April 2012


Christian Acquitted of ‘Blasphemy’ Charge in Pakistan

The following article reports on the acquital of Dildar Masih, charged with blasphemy, when prosecutors failed to produce any evidence of the alleged offence.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/pakistan/article_1508387.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.