Should Australia recognise a Taliban government?

Donald Rothwell, Australian National UniversityShould Australia recognise a Taliban government in Afghanistan? This is a question the federal government has been facing ever since the government of Afghan Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani capitulated to the Taliban on August 15.

Since that time, various Australian government ministers have avoided media questions on this sensitive topic. This week, an interim government was announced in Kabul, so the question has become more pressing.

It is clear the United States, the United Kingdom and others have been in talks with the Taliban in recent weeks. The US’s co-ordinated withdrawal from Kabul could not have taken place without some level of Taliban co-operation. There has already been de facto engagement with the Taliban and a recognition they are now in charge.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told the Senate on August 23:

Australia will support international efforts to maintain pressure on the Taliban and on any future Afghan administration to meet its responsibilities to its people, its region and the wider world.

From an international law perspective, Afghanistan has not actually changed that much since the Taliban took Kabul. It still remains a “state” for the purposes of international law, and retains its seat at the United Nations. All of the treaties Afghanistan has entered into remain legally valid.

Read more:
The Taliban wants the world’s trust. To achieve this, it will need to make some difficult choices

The 1933 Montevideo Convention has a test for the recognition of a new state. There must be settled boundaries, a defined population, a government and a capacity to enter into international relations.

Australia applied the test to Timor-Leste, for example. Australia was one of the first countries to formally recognise Timor and even signed a maritime boundary treaty in Dili on independence day in May 2002. In that instance, Timor was clearly emerging as a newly formed state from its previous existence as a Portuguese colony and then Indonesian province.

Even if the Taliban proclaims a new name for the country such as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, that does not make Afghanistan a new state for international law purposes. After all, countries changing their names is not exceptional. They also regularly change governments.

In 2021, Australia has faced changes in government in Myanmar and the United States. In the case of Myanmar, Australia expressed its displeasure with the February military coup, but has proceeded to deal with the current military government. Official congratulations were passed on to the Biden administration and business as usual has carried on with Washington.

Despite a military coup in Myanmar, the Australian government has continued to deal with its new rulers.
Lynn Bo Bo/EPA/AAP

Why, then, is the question being asked as to whether Australia and other western governments will recognise a Taliban government in Afghanistan? First, the Taliban’s previous rule from 1996-2001 was characterised by its ruthlessness in seeking to enforce sharia law, and widespread human rights violations, especially against women.

That regime’s legacy is a legitimate concern for Afghan women, foreign governments and multiple human rights organisations that are fearful it will be repeated again.

Second, Australia, the US and their western allies devoted considerable military resources to overthrowing the Taliban following the September 11 2001 terror attacks. For Australia and others, the Taliban had effectively lost their right to govern following their support for, and harbouring of, Osama bin Laden.

Read more:
Explainer: what is shariah law and what version of it is the Taliban likely to implement?

With the looming 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks at the forefront of public consciousness, especially following the very public decision of the Biden administration to end the so-called “forever war”, there is understandable caution in hastily recognising a Taliban government.

How then will Australia act? Canberra will not wish to take the lead in this matter. There may even be a co-ordinated strategy by certain western countries.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested any recognition of the Taliban may be conditional. The formation of a stable government will be the first priority. Other conditions could include a clear and verifiable commitment to human rights, especially respect for women’s rights, and the ability of Afghans and other citizens to freely leave the country.

A period of initial de facto recognition of the Taliban is probable, which could over time give way to formal recognition.

Australia will need to have a clear policy framework to deal with these dynamics. For better or worse, Australia has been intimately connected with Afghanistan’s future now for 20 years. The ongoing Australian government investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by Australian Defence Force personnel will keep that relationship in the public eye for years to come.

To ensure those war crimes investigations and the associated in-country gathering of legally admissible evidence is not jeopardised, Australia will need to learn eventually to work with whichever government oversees Afghanistan from Kabul.

At present, that is the Taliban.The Conversation

Donald Rothwell, Professor of International Law, Australian National University

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

Euthanasia bill unexpectedly defeated in South Australia

In a surprise victory for pro-life advocates, South Australia’s Upper House has narrowly voted down an amendment to their palliative care legislation that would have legalized euthanasia, reports Patrick B. Craine,

The bill was proposed by Greens member Mark Parnell. It was expected to pass 11-10, with the support of independent member Ann Bressington, the swing vote. Bressington opted to abstain, however, after amendments she had sought failed. This abstention would have resulted in a tie, meaning that Upper House President Bob Sneath would vote to pass the bill.

In the end, however, member David Ridway announced to the shock of pro-life observers that personal reasons had led him to change his mind, and he voted against the bill.

Parnell has stated his intention to make another attempt at legalizing euthanasia after the state elections in March 2010. With the upcoming retirement of two pro-life members, pro-life advocates have indicated that such an attempt has a real risk of succeeding.

The UK-based anti-euthanasia group SPUC Pro-Life called the vote "a victory for civilised values."

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC’s communications manager and an expatriate Australian, stated: "Those seeking to develop civilised values which respect the sanctity of human life should be encouraged by this vote.

"In spite of all the money, media support and propaganda of the euthanasia lobby, many politicians recognise the dangers to public safety in introducing such legislation. This victory for civilised values joins the recent defeat of a similar bill in Tasmania, as well as the repeated votes by the British House of Lords against assisted suicide."

Report from the Christian Telegraph 


Christian lobbyists in the UK are calling a pending EU directive that would introduce a policy similar to Britain’s Sexual Orientation Regulations to all member states, a “threat to religious freedom.” Pro-family activists fear that the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected grounds for discrimination may leave European Christians and others vulnerable to legal actions, reports Hilary White,

The proposed directive aims to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services and may also outlaw ‘harassment.’

Critics have also said that the directive would mean that countries which legally recognise same-sex civil partnerships would be required to expand their provisions to include homosexual adoption. It is also feared that the directive’s definition of harassment is so broad that even explanations of Christian beliefs on sexual conduct or those of other religions like Islam, could fall foul of the law.

In April 2008, the BBC reported that the directive had been “shelved.” Jan Jarab of the Employment Department of the Commission told the BBC that “signals” from some member states indicated that there would not be the required unanimous consent on a blanket anti-discrimination law that would include “sexual orientation.”

In May 2008, however, the European Parliament issued a memo reminding MEPs of the “commitment to put forward a comprehensive directive covering disability, age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.”

Accordingly, the EU Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) last week voted to approve the final version of its report on the issue. This will now go to the EU Parliament for a vote in early April on whether to adopt the report as its own recommendations on the directive. Power to enact, amend or reject the directive lies with the Council of the European Union, a body composed of government representatives from each of the 27 member states.

The Christian Institute, the UK’s most prominent Christian lobby group, argues that similar laws in the UK and other nations have caused serious erosion of religious liberty and the exclusion of Christianity from the public sphere.

The Christian Institute called the “harassment” provision one of the “most alarming” aspects of the proposed legislation. The directive defines it as the creation of an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

(With files from the Christian Institute)

Report from the Christian Telegraph


The Anglican minister who undertook to perform a much publicized “marriage” ceremony for two of his fellow clergy in a Church of England parish last May has expressed regret for his actions, which were in direct defiance of Church of England rules, and is being let off with a slap on the wrist, reports Thaddeus M. Baklinski,

Rev. Dr. Martin Dudley officiated at the homosexual “wedding” of two homosexual clergy at St. Bartholomew the Great church in London, using a slightly modified version of the Church of England’s marriage ceremony. The modified form began, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God to join these men in a holy covenant of love and fidelity.”

The ceremony occurred at a particularly sensitive time for the Church of England – in the immediate and heated leadup to the decennial Lambeth Conference, an event that numerous traditional Anglican priests and bishops ultimately boycotted due to the Anglican Church’s increasingly brazen rejection of Christian sexual ethics. Rev. Dudley’s actions were immediately condemned by bishops in the traditional Global South.

The Most Rev. Henry Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, called the ceremony “blasphemous” and called on Rowan Williams to take decisive action, warning that the Anglican Church could “disintegrate.” Archbishop Orombi added, “What really shocks me is that this is happening in the Church of England that first brought the Gospel to us.”

The Bishop of London, the Right Rev. Richard Chartres, ordered an investigation into the proceedings, which involved “a series of frank discussions with the Rector,” a diocesan statement issued yesterday said.

In his letter to Dudley, dated 18 Jun 2008, Bishop Chartres said, “You have sought to justify your actions to the BBC and in various newspapers but have failed more than two weeks after the service to communicate with me.”

“The point at issue,” continued the bishop, “is not Civil Partnerships themselves or the relation of biblical teaching to homosexual practice. The real issue is whether you wilfully defied the discipline of the Church and broke your oath of canonical obedience to your Bishop.”

Bishop Chartres concluded by warning Dudley, “St Bartholomew’s is not a personal fiefdom. You serve there as an ordained minister of the Church of England, under the authority of the Canons and as someone who enjoys my licence. I have already asked the Archdeacon of London to commence the investigation and I shall be referring the matter to the Chancellor of the Diocese. Before I do this, I am giving you an opportunity to make representations to me direct.”

In a letter to the bishop dated July 21 but not released publicly until posted on the London diocese web site today, Rev. Dudley promised that he wouldn’t do it again unless church policy changes.

In it Rev. Dudley said: “I regret the embarrassment caused to you by this event and by its subsequent portrayal in the media. I now recognise that I should not have responded positively to the request for this service.”

“I can now appreciate that the service held at St Bartholomew the Great on 31 May 2008 was inconsistent with the terms of the Pastoral Statement from the House of Bishops issued in 2005,” he said.

“Nonetheless, I am willing to abide by its content in the future, until such time as it is rescinded or amended, and I undertake not to provide any form of blessing for same sex couples registering civil partnerships.”

The diocesan statement then concluded that both sides had agreed to put the incident behind them: “As a consequence, the Rector has made expressly clear his regret over what happened at St Bartholomew the Great and accepted the service should not have taken place.

“Bishop Richard considered the matter and has decided to accept the Rector’s apology in full. The matter is therefore now closed.”

Report from the Christian Telegraph