UN call on WA Parliament to reject anti-protest laws welcomed by environment groups

Media Release - 16 February 2016

UN call on WA Parliament to reject anti-protest laws welcomed by environment groups

Environment Groups have welcomed the statement by the United Nations human rights experts urging the WA Parliament not to pass the Barnett Governments proposed anti-protest bill.

Conservation Council Director Piers Verstegen said “This is an embarrassing day for the Government and for Western Australia with the United Nations having to step in to remind our Parliament of its international human rights obligations, which the UN experts say would be contravened by the governments proposed anti-protest laws.

“After examining the proposed anti protest bill, the UN Special Rapporteurs have concluded that the legislation would contravene international obligations including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as well as peaceful assembly and association.

“The UN statement also reminds the WA Parliament that a healthy environment is a human right, and that peaceful protest defense of that right is legitimate and necessary regardless of whether these activities are seen by some as frustrating development

“A broad alliance including conservation groups, lawyers, trade unions, churches, farmers and many others have expressed serious concerns about this bill and now the United Nations has validated those concerns with this important statement.

“How much more evidence does the government need before they drop this badly drafted and draconian bill from their legislative agenda?”
The UN Special Rapporteurs statement says “The Bill would grant police disproportionate and unnecessary powers to restrict lawful protests, primarily against environmental activists trying to raise awareness of key environmental issues. It discourages legitimate protest activity and instead, prioritizes business and government resource interests over the democratic rights of individuals.
The statement also warns that “The Bill will have the chilling effect of silencing dissenters and punishing expression protected by international human rights law. Instead of having a necessary legitimate aim, would disproportionately criminalize legitimate protest actions.”

Comment: Piers Verstegen – 0411 557 892

Read the full statement by the UN