14 May 2024

Fitzroy Legal Service joins calls by legal organisations, human rights experts, Aboriginal-controlled community organisations, leading NGOs, and communities all across the country for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine. 

 As a party to the Genocide Convention, Australia has a legal obligation to take all reasonable measures to prevent genocide – wherever it may occur. As a civil society organisation, FLS has a critical role to play in ensuring that the Australian Government complies with this obligation. 

In January the International Court of Justice ruled that there was ‘a real and imminent risk’ of the Israeli Government causing irreparable harm to the right of Palestinians to be protected from genocide and made interim orders requiring the Israeli Government to prevent genocide.

Then in March the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reported that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the Israeli Government was committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. With the Israeli Government having now commenced ground operations in Rafah, decisive action is urgently needed to protect Palestinian lives. 

Fitzroy Legal Service stands united with the global movement against war and violence. We condemn all acts of violence against civilians, both those committed by the Israeli Government and those committed by Hamas, and we join calls for the immediate release of all hostages.  

We likewise condemn the abhorrent rise of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of racism, prejudice and bigotry in our communities. 

We welcome the Australian Government’s recent statements objecting to the actions of the Israeli Government in Rafah, and its previous calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and for all parties to comply with international humanitarian law. However, with the shocking loss of over 30,000 lives, the displacement of over 2 million people, and over a million lives now at risk in Rafah, further action is urgently required to end this catastrophe.  

We join the Human Rights Law Centre, and other international and human rights law experts, in calling on the Australian Government to do everything within its power to secure an immediate and permanent ceasefire and to prevent genocide in Gaza, including by:  

  • Continuing to apply diplomatic pressure on the Israeli Government to cease all acts of violence in Gaza; 
  • Ensuring full accountability for anyone responsible for breaches of international law or the commission of war crimes;  
  • Immediately suspending all military exports and other military assistance to the Israeli Government, including terminating any contracts with the Israeli Defense Force and related contractors; and 
  • Providing safe passage and settlement in Australia to those fleeing the violence, including full economic and social rights to support them to survive and heal. 

Fitzroy Legal Service is Victoria’s longest-standing community legal centre and has a proud history of holding governments to account on a broad range of public interest law matters, ranging from the treatment of asylum-seekers on Nauru, to transport infrastructure projects in Victoria. For over fifty years FLS has used our voice to advocate for the advancement of human rights, to support those fighting against injustice, and to hold governments to account where human rights are being breached – be that in the courtroom, through the media, or by protesting in the streets.  

We are speaking out on this issue because of the impact it is having on the communities we serve, because of calls for support from our partners and stakeholders, including our First Nations partners, because the issue has a clear legal dimension, giving rise to legal obligations attendant on the Australian Government, because of the critical role civil society organisations such as FLS have in ensuring our government complies with these legal obligations, and because Israel is a close ally of Australia. 

As a legal service and a human rights and civil society organisation we feel it is our duty to speak out to ensure our government is acting to uphold Australia’s commitments to justice, human rights, and international law. We commend the leadership of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service on this issue and share their hope that other legal services and organisations that share these values will join the call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. 

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