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Is the Refugee Convention a human rights treaty? Revisiting the High Court’...

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Attorney-General's Department

3 National Circuit

Barton, ACT

Australia

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Join a group of 20-25 CIPL members at a monthly brown bag (BYO) lunch to hear short presentations by specialists on recent developments in international law, followed by general discussion.

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that the 1951 Refugee Convention merits a place in the pantheon of international human rights treaties. This conventional wisdom would seem to be supported by the globally significant decisions of the High Court of Australia in the Malaysian Declaration (2011) and Offshore Processing (2010) cases. A closer look at the Court’s earlier jurisprudence, however, indicates that these decisions were based on what the judges took to be a legislative drafting misstep in implementing the Convention. With that purported error now corrected by the legislature, as Gageler J has argued in CPCF (2015), we have reverted to the position set out by Justice Gummow in Ibrahim (2000) and adopted by six judges in NAGV (2005). This holds that the Convention is contractual in its nature and not to be read as a human rights instrument, let alone construed as recognising the individual as a rights-bearing subject.

This talk will speak to a draft paper that explores the persuasiveness and ramifications of the court’s reasoning, and what this might say more generally about dominant judicial understandings of treaty law, as well as the sophistication of the Australian judicial engagement with important international legal debates.

Matthew Zagor is an Associate Professor at the ANU College of Law and Director of the Law Reform and Social Justice program. He is also an Adjunct Fellow at the ANU Centre for European Studies, a Senior Research Associate at the Refugee Law Initiative in the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, and a Senior Editor of the Australian Year Book of International Law. His recent research focuses on the interplay of generosity, authenticity and sovereignty in Australian refugee legal discourse, and traces the elements of a political theology of refugee martyrdom evident in Australian, US and European programs that prioritize the resettlement of Christian refugees.

Should people register and then be unable to attend, they are kindly asked to cancel their booking so that others can attend.

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Attorney-General's Department

3 National Circuit

Barton, ACT

Australia

View Map

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