Advocacy of genocide to be criminalised

Federal Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis. Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

ANTI-Discrimination Board of NSW president Stepan Kerkyasharian has joined communal leaders in welcoming the federal government’s plans to introduce a new crime of “advocacy of genocide”.

Writing in News Corp Australia last week that “advocating extremism or violence to achieve political change, or to hurt, threaten, or vilify others, is not a legitimate use of free speech and has no place in our society”, Attorney-General George Brandis said the new crime would be part of the next tranche of counterterrorism legislation to be introduced later this year.

It comes after NSW Police chose not to prosecute Hizb ut-Tahrir’s spiritual leader Ismail al-Wahwah, who allegedly called all Jews corrupt and a “hidden evil”, and said “the ember of jihad against the Jews will continue to burn”.

Welcoming the news of the legislation, Kerkyasharian told The AJN this week, “Genocide is the most abhorrent crime in the world; it is the natural conclusion of racism, and therefore any action that will stop racism and stop genocide is welcome by me.”

He said people who call for action against a particular race is “enough for the beginning steps leading to genocide”.

“Anyone who calls for the elimination of a total race is in fact calling for genocide and would be found to be guilty of advocating genocide,” Kerkyasharian said. “I hope that any new legislation would cover that [and] I think that punishment should be custodial.” Kerkyasharian also called for denial of genocide to be made a crime as well.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said although the draft legislation has not yet been tabled, “we welcome the announcement and commend the government”.

“Our longstanding position has been that advocacy of any kind of violence against individuals or groups based on their race or ethnic background should be a crime, even if it does not rise to the level of advocating genocide,” Wertheim said.

“The existing Commonwealth legislation dealing with incitement to racially motivated violence is unworkable. We therefore encourage the government, in addition to this latest initiative, to take the next logical step and reform sections 80.2A, 80.2B and 80.3 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code. As always we would be happy to provide the government with any assistance.”