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Australian Centre for International Justice

Afghan victims’ rights project: Accountability for Australian war crimes in Afghanistan

Afghan victims’ rights project: Accountability for Australian war crimes in Afghanistan

ACIJ is working to secure access to justice for survivor and victims’ communities impacted by atrocity crimes around the world, including Afghan victims and c...

australia > NSW > metro
01/12/2020 > 31/12/2022

FIELD OF INTEREST

  • Social inclusion & justice

TARGET POPULATION

  • People experiencing socio-economic disadvantage or vulnerability
  • Asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and people from CALD backgrounds

PROJECT SUMMARY

ACIJ is working to secure access to justice for survivor and victims’ communities impacted by atrocity crimes around the world, including Afghan victims and communities affected by allegations of war crimes by Australian special forces personnel.

The forthcoming Australian investigations and prosecutions of allegations of serious war crimes in Afghanistan, are the first concerted effort of any of the international armed forces for accountability for serious crimes committed in Afghanistan. Victims and victims’ families should be fully engaged in the process. The ACIJ is committed to continue advocating to ensure a victims’ rights approach is implemented in the accountability process, including through advocacy on policy reform and legal representation.

The next few years are crucial to ensuring these important domestic investigations and prosecutions are monitored and that they adhere to minimum global standards and practice. We have identified significant legal issues that are likely to arise which requires a critical analysis and a perspective which includes victims’ rights.

In addition, there is the potential that these processes will break new legal ground that will impact other justice processes abroad. This is a significant opportunity to contribute to developing the law and practice in a positive way for future international crimes prosecutions in Australia that will have a positive impact for victims and survivors accessing justice in Australia. Our monitoring, research and dissemination of information around this accountability process will ensure there is an critical voice examining the process, in addition to educating the Australian public and a global audience about the process.

We are committed to working in collaboration with partners in Afghanistan, Australia and around the world, to ensure communities affected are engaged in the accountability process. This will include:

• ongoing advocacy, communications, policy development, and casework for victims and their families who are directly affected by the crimes in Afghanistan; and
• undertaking research of potential legal developments and issues in the investigations and prosecutions to ensure a critical perspective is provided.

PROJECT OUTCOMES

Our experience and proven ability to achieve impact and access to expert counsel and advice, makes us well placed to seek outcomes that will achieve impact for the communities affected in Afghanistan and to ensure this Australian accountability process includes the participation of victims, and advocacy for victims’ rights.

Our work aims to achieve:

• access to justice for Afghan victims and their families through provision of legal advocacy and legal support work in partnership with Afghan human rights organisations;
• victims’ families are empowered in a process that respects their dignity and rights;
• greater respect for and enforcement of victims’ rights from Australian authorities;
• opportunity to build the case for long-term policy and law reform through political engagement, media and public debate.

Our work and impact to date:

Our strategic advocacy and communications, and systemic policy engagement and collaboration with others, has provided focus on victims’ rights and has had significant impact.

In November 2020, our persistent efforts and contribution to the debate achieved a significant policy advance and a major breakthrough with the announcement from the Australian government to establish a new body to conduct investigations and refer briefs for prosecution. This effort has been recognised by experts from leading human rights organisations in the world, including from the ECCHR and the CCR.

ACIJ was a leading voice in calling for this independent investigations unit to be established, and worked to contextualise the need for such a unit within concerted efforts globally on global investigative mechanisms. We continue to be an influential and principled voice on the necessary reforms required including through opinion pieces, and media coverage. We have brought attention to Afghan human rights organisations to ensure they are involved in the process and can provide an urgent victims’ rights perspective that was otherwise missing.

We worked in collaboration with partners in Australia and Afghanistan to ensure communities affected are engaged in the process. This included a joint call for action, bringing together Afghan, Australian and international human rights organisations.

We established our Centre knowing that the investigations and prosecutions of the allegations of Australian war crimes in Afghanistan will be a pivotal moment in shaping Australia’s approach to an international crimes policy. A specialist civil society voice was missing in this important conversation and since 2018, we have been at the forefront of helping shape the advocacy agenda on this issue in Australia.

Profile of Australian Centre for International Justice

Australian Centre for International Justice

The ACIJ is an independent, not-for-profit organisation based in Sydney, Australia, that is working to develop Australia’s capacity to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes. The ACIJ aims to provide access to justice to survivors of egregious violations of human rights, in particular the crimes of torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The ACIJ was established in December 2018 as a specialist legal centre and develops and uses ground-breaking strategic legal action to challenge impunity, injustice and human rights violations worldwide. ACIJ works closely with communities and with partners around the world to build and develop legal strategies to fight impunity.

The ACIJ endeavours to place Australia as a new avenue for accountability on the global stage and contribute to ending the impunity of those responsible for committing atrocity crimes.

In addition, the ACIJ works with partners locally and abroad to ensure Australia’s conduct is consistent with international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The ACIJ is the first legal centre in Australia specifically dedicated to this mission and the first centre in the country working on universal jurisdiction and international crimes litigation. The ACIJ engages critically and constructively with Australian authorities through a combination of legal action, policy research and advocacy, and public engagement.

BUDGET BREAKDOWN

TOTAL BUDGET: $250,000
FUNDING
Funding sourceAmount
Funding gap (unconfirmed)$100,000
Other Funding$150,000
EXPENSES
Expense itemAmount
2x Solicitor$160,000
Interpretation$20,000
Admin support$30,000
In-kind support$40,000

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