FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Calls for an independent inquiry in Occupy eviction gather momentum
Two of Victoria’s leading human rights and justice organisations today endorsed calls made by the Occupy Melbourne Legal Support Team for an independent inquiry into the Occupy Melbourne eviction. The calls came on the back of the Support Team winning the prestigious Tim McCoy Award on Friday night, an annual Victorian award recognising outstanding achievement in human rights and social justice.
Liberty Victoria and the Victorian Federation of Community Legal Centres today welcomed the release of the Occupy Policing report and backed its call for an independent inquiry into the eviction of Occupy Melbourne protesters from City Square on 21 October 2011.
The President of Liberty Victoria, Professor Spencer Zifcak, welcomed the release of the Occupy Melbourne Report. ‘This is a well researched and cogently argued report that raises serious questions regarding the dispersal of the Occupy Melbourne protest in 2011’, he said. ‘The Occupy Melbourne protest was shut down by Council authorities more quickly than any other similar protest in any other city in any western democratic nation. In itself that is a source of very considerable concern.’
‘More than that, however, the information and evidence collected in the report suggests that the rights of demonstrators to freedom of speech and assembly may have been violated. These rights are protected by the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities and they are set down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international human rights treaty to which Australia is a signatory. In other words, both Melbourne City Council and Victoria police may have acted illegally and in breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations. Because of this, Liberty Victoria favours the immediate creation of an independent inquiry to examine all the circumstances in which the protest was terminated’.
Federation of Community Legal Centres Executive Officer Hugh de Kretser said the report highlighted serious questions around the legality of decisions to break the protest up and provided strong evidence of unreasonable use of force by police. “This is an important report which underscores the need for an independent inquiry into the eviction. There are many examples where evidence of excessive police force, including capsicum spray, has been documented. More broadly, the report demonstrates the important role played by independent observers at protest events.”
The qualitative Report, Occupy Policing: A Report into the Effects and Legality of the Eviction of Occupy Melbourne from City Square on 21 October 2011, documents protesters’ experiences of policing and is available here: www.occupypolicing.org
A copy of the Report has been provided to the Office of Police Integrity, the Honorable Peter Ryan, Minister for Police, Melbourne City Council and the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. To date, none of these individuals or organizations have acknowledged receipt of or committed to investigating the contents and findings of the Report.
For media inquiries, call: Sara Dehm (0431 273 244) or Erin Buckley (0448 323 060), Report Coordinators and members of the Occupy Melbourne Legal Support Team