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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2366

(Question No. 4391)


Mr Hollis asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 20 August 1986:

(1) Is Australia taking steps to become a party to the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.

(2) How many nations have already become parties to the Convention.


Mr Hayden —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

1. Australia shares totally the abhorrence of apar- theid which underlies the 1973 Apartheid Convention and has been in the forefront of international efforts to achieve the broad purpose of the Convention, namely the eradication of apartheid. In line with the strategy embodied in the Commonwealth Accord on South Africa agreed at Nassau in 1985 and extended at the London meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in August last year, we have undertaken concrete measures to bring home to the South African Government that its policies must change.

The reluctance of the Government to become a party to the Apartheid Convention should not be seen as diminishing our commitment to the removal of apar- theid. It is related rather to problems with certain legal concepts, especially the notion of criminality, on which the Convention is based. The Convention's definition of apartheid as a crime is imprecise and difficult to accommodate in a system of criminal law like our own which regards a clear definition of a criminal offence as an essential safeguard of civil liberties. Some of the activities which are embraced in the definition would not be regarded as criminal under Australian legislation. There are in addition problems with the concept of universal jurisdiction embodied in the Convention, under which any State party to the Convention is technically obliged to prosecute any person within its jurisdiction respons- ible for the broadly defined crime of apartheid wherever the act is committed and whatever the person's nationality may be.

2. 85 nations have become party to the Convention. No country with a political and legal system similar to Australia's has become a party.